April 25, 2008

The First Sunny Friday

Things are quiet in the blog world today. I suspect the culprit--at least in my part of the country--is the first genuinely warm and sunny Friday of Spring. I'm as guilty as anyone else of a bit of slackerdom. Given that my lunch included a trout salad with fennel, olives, and tomatoes, a side of duck-fat-fried potatoes, a glass of fume blanc, finishing with tangerine and pomegranate sorbet...a nap is sounding pretty good right now. (Blue Duck Tavern, if you're wondering.)

Last night I went to the Library of Congress to hear Charles Wright and Mark Strand read. Having known Charles since UVA days, his poetry was a known quantity. I have to say, though--his readings are more enjoyable than they were in 2000. Maybe my ear has matured. But I also think I was exposed to his work when it was at its most abstract and philosophical (the prime syllabics of Black Zodiac). Nature is good but perfect nature, uninterrupted nature, can be curiously airless. Nowadays he's letting flawed humanity back into the work, and that is reflected in the patter he uses to introduce poems (memories of a young exploit in Italy; a dedication to a brother-in-law who struggled with drug addiction). The pose is the same (one foot hooked behind the other), the voice is the same (Southern and slightly breathy, but pushing through and sustaining some VERY long lines), the silver belt buckle and leather boots are the same. But the reading...different. Better.

My other recent reading was the i.e. series in Baltimore last Saturday, where I had the pleasure of reading with Les Wade and Kristi Maxwell. As I've said before, the i.e. space is incredible--a garage turned acoustic studio, with a finished stage in honeyed wood tones that shine under the sodium arc lights. One wall hosts a narrow balcony and stacks of old schoolhouse chairs; one wall hosts a corn-fueled stove that heats the whole house; one wall hosts gleaming, murderously-sharp farm implements with brightly-colored handles.

Michael Ball, the modest and welcoming host, always keeps the show running smoothly. Kristi's book, Realm Sixty-Four, is just out from Ahsahta. My favorite poems drew upon the historical relic of the (phony) chess-playing automaton known as "The Turk." The syntactical fragmentation made it challenging to take the poems in aurally (I confess, I'd have loved to have the page in front of me). But Kristi's fluid language, and the historic/narrative backdrop, gave the listener enough to hold onto. Here we are afterwards:

(Me on the left, Les in the middle, and Kristi)

I really enjoyed the whole evening. If you're within driving radius of Charm City, check out the May 17 reading with Morgan Lucas Schuldt and Jessica Smith.


Valerie Loveland said...

I miss living on the East Coast--so many more readings!

Lydia said...

I just read your three poems at Blackbird: Drink, She Falls Asleep in Strange Places, and You. So amazing. You run on genius fuel.