August 07, 2009


What is this, you are wondering? Well, it's an entrance to an aviary. With a very particular piece of paper taped to the pole visible on the left. All will be revealed soon enough; just keep reading.

Earlier this week I had a wonderful poetry-evening with Mark Dawson. He's a former BWR editor, a talented formalist, a Westchester regular, and an all-around good guy. We sat on my Dupont Circle balcony, taking in the city view and sharing pinot noir, a couple of good cigars (his), some fresh-baked peanut butter cookies (mine), and tumblers of Aberlour scotch to finish.

At one point Mark took out a sonnet, one he's been fiddling with all week. He read it and--just on that raw reading--I could admire the clever sestet, the humor. We discussed a couple of particular word choices, and the possibility of tweaking the tense momentum in the opening octet. That was it. No tit-for-tat. No overworked explication of what the poem was trying to do. A perfectly organic workshop moment. I love DC.

As some of you may remember from my May reading at Gist Street, I also love Pittsburgh. Though it's a much more rapid-onset kind of love. Lust, really. I'm headed back there for a reading on August 30 with the Typewriter Girls!

So I was honored when the Gist Street crew invited me to take part in the Pittsburgh incarnation of isReads, which was launched at the end of July. The project was founded in 2006 by Publishing Genius Press; Adam Robinson and Peter Cole are the editors. You might remember a spiffy profile that was in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers. Previous installments were in Nashville and Baltimore. The idea is to place poetry and fiction where people would not expect it: at bus stops, in grocery carts, under rocks, and in doorways.

A trio of innovative arts organizations--Gist Street, isReads, and Open Thread--came together in collaboration for this project. Each solicited five poems or short-short stories for this issue to represent local, national, emerging, and established writers. Gist Street’s other contributors are Benjamin Percy, Aaron Smith, Chauna Craig, and Neno Perrota. Open Thread (which establishes frameworks for artistic discovery in Pittsburgh and the surrounding tri-state area) brought on the contributors Matt Anserello, Noah Falck, Sophie Klahr, Colin C. Post, and S.E. Smith. isReads contributors to the Pittsburgh issue are Virgil Brower, Brian Foley, Elizabeth P. Glixman, Joseph Goosey, Jac Jemc, and Justin C. Witt.

As a feature of Open Thread’s new small press festival, SPF, volunteers will post isReads contributions on surfaces across the city, identifying the locations on a google map (with photos!) at the isReads site (which will hopefully be updated shortly). The organizers obtained official city support in the form of a July proclamation sponsored by City Councilman Bill Perduto, which guarantees the creative works will be unmolested during the duration of their posting. Installation sites vary, from Lawrenceville’s Pavement Shoes to Councilman Peduto’s office door.

Here's Ben Percy's poem in its (truly congruous) habitat of Frick Park dog run:

And here's a closer view of "Another Failed Poem About Starlings," lurking outside a condor cage:


giulia said...

Must go lie down from shock that someone isn't making a joke about my hometown. It's really kicked up since Pgh was announced as the site of the September G8 (or G20? whatever) mtg. Lots of snickering around town & man, it burns me up. Thank you. Really.


Martha Silano said...

I love, love, love the notion of poems on telephone poles. Yes! Yes! I am going to start posting poems on the pole where my son waits for the school bus. Poems all about him, of course. Thanks for the idea.

Valerie Loveland said...

I wish more poets would post their work in random places. (Of course that means now I have to post my poems in random spots.)