St Mark’s Poetry Project 1/1/08 photos

Photos and a quick report from The Poetry Project‘s 34th Annual New Year’s Day Marathon Reading, January 1, 2008 at St. Mark’s Church in NYC. More photos are at my Facebook page.

The theme of the night was definitely “New Year’s Babies.” There were lots of children in attendance. And, as each performer stepped down from the stage, she was offered a string of metallic beads, offered by one poet’s little girl. The program dedicates the reading to “The kids of 07”: Lucas, Sylvie, Ian, and Ismael.

It was a packed crowd. As usual, the crowd swelled when Patti Smith and other favorites took the stage. Excellent food choices for such an event. The traditional vegetarian chili was available, though someone claimed it was 20 years old.

Patti Smith performed a fascinating song, a kind of spoken word with music. (She claimed it utilized only one chord.) The song started with the miracle of Jesus’ birth, and some mystical references to the lamb as god’s creature; then it described how one of god’s beautiful creatures had taken the life of a young man (the recent incident of the tiger at the zoo), and then how a beautiful woman was murdered with two bullets and a bomb – the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto; and then ending with another story of a man, who I believe was a worker or common man. Very profound. Hope it gets recorded. (Cameraphone video excerpt)

Don’t let the humble appearance deceive you. The man in the photo is Philip Glass. And, the reason I have this photo, and not one of him at the piano, is because once he started playing, everyone was silenced and mesmerized. There was no scooting around for the correct angle. I might even have gotten a photo from my seat, but I just wanted to enjoy. Listening to Philip Glass play is like sitting beside a waterfall full of sparkling surprises. Always amazing and healing.

David Kirschenbaum and Ian Wilder (my hubby). The reason we went to the marathon reading this year is to see David read. He did an awesome job. He read two poems with Star Wars themes, sung to the tune of other songs. I loved it. The audience enjoyed it, too. More to follow. Ian even has video. David Kirschenbaum is the editor/publisher of Boog City. At the marathon reading, there were free copies available of the newspaper, which this time is a special edition, packed with poetry, “The Portable Boog Reader, 2.” [More, including photos of Reno, Sparrow, and a sitar]

Besides the fact that I really like Eliot Katz, I loved that he read a poem that envisioned a dream world where “a progressive Democrat or third party” candidate could win for president.

Reno is hysterical! In keeping with the theme of the evening, Reno did a great stand-up session about how she watched a friend’s child for the day. Ever try to get a kid in a car seat? It isn’t easy when you are as uncoordinated as Reno claims to be. We were really impressed with how Reno opened up with commentary on Greg Fuch’s new baby. Talk about topical and on the spot.

Above photo: The group Open Music Ensemble. They were wonderful. Another profound, spiritual moment of the evening. Think this is the first time I ever saw the sitar being played right before my eyes.

Yoshiko Chuma danced. Her performance was intent and compelling. A lot of interesting arm movements. A great sense of purpose. Her web-site is here.

Here is an image of the bestowing of gifts. As each reader left the stage, she was greeted with the gift of a Mardi-Gras style necklace. Most of the necklaces were handed out by the adorable daughter of one of the poets. Throughout the evening this little one waited patiently, and then ran, skipped, and searched to accomplish her mission of handing each poet their sparkling present. Sometimes there was a pair of children to get the job done. For some of the readers, you could see it made their day to have such an honor. And, it certainly supported the theme of the evening – new life and a new year.

Sparrow and members of Foamola. Sparrow is always inventive. This year, instruments included: a long, blue pole – maybe from a tent or something–that gently hit a box. And, two, cardboard party hats in bright colors, which were dropped onto the ground, each other, or the box for a subtle audio effect (and an even more exciting and suspenseful visual effect.) My favorite song from them today was the song that asked the musical question: “Is there anything softer than a softball?” Though, I also enjoyed the song that they claim was named by Rolling Stone as the third best song about sewing. I learned from that song, that it is easier to sew a shirt, than to darn a sock, and even more profoundly, I leaned about the existence of a darning form that helps you darn socks. I am really going to try to get one of those.

I will try to post more here after I get some sleep… got some sleep… Here is more…

Oh, you should always thank the people who worked so hard to pull something like this off. There are three staff people at the Poetry Project and they were on hand and busy throughout the whole evening: Stacy Szymaszek, Artistic Director; Corrine Fitzpatrick, Program Coordinator; Arlo Quint, Program Assistant. I have rave reviews, not just because the evening went well, but because the Artistic Director was so humble in her opening remarks, noting how the whole community had to work on an event this big. And, because my husband and I got a very nice thank you for volunteering as we left the church.

Greg Fuchs is a poet, artist, and photojournalist. His reading was great, and in addition, he hosted a segment. (He also has one of the new babies.)

I love Sharon Mesmer. She is a great poet. And, I told her I was staying to hear her read. But, Ian and I pooped out and left town before she took the stage. Still, there is no reason you cannot enjoy her work. She has a very deep blog at:

It was a pleasure to spend time with Emily XYZ. First, she was one of the most helpful people in the kitchen (Ian and I were tied to doing 2 hours of volunteer duty.) Then, I loved her reading. Have to look up the poem sometime. One part that really stuck out at me was her saying that the fortune of poets and artists depends on if there are any generous and enlightened governments or rich people who support that kind of thing. I couldn’t really get if the poem meant that seriously, and if it suggested any implications.

I do not always “get” what is so fabulous about Taylor Mead. Though, he is funny. And, really, really sincere. There is a definite cheering club and a well of interest and support when it is his turn each year to take the mic at the poetry marathon. Since I can sometimes be slow, it took me until this year to ask Ian, “Why does everyone like him so much? Is it just the weird sex jokes?” Ian explained to me that Taylor Mead was part of Andy Warhol’s inner circle. Okay, now I get it. Frustrated genius. Cult following. And all that. Taylor Mead reads each week at the Bowery Poetry Club. If you like this kind of thing, you should go check him out.

Brendan Lorber’s reading was awesome and theatrical. He started by a feigned jibe at the Poetry Project not running the evening well. It was a kind of bold teasing, which could only be pulled off by an insider. Also, as an audience member, the sense that there may be conflict really does get one’s juices going. Brendan’s complaint was that the Poetry Project staff had not met his request to close down the street outside and allow him to land a small two-engine plane for the evening. The poem was done with two voices. One voice was him, the other was “Kennedy Airport” coming over to him on a walkie-talkie.* It was interesting (not just gimmicky), probably because the poem had substance.

We missed hearing Eric Bogosian read! Boo hoo. But you can only do so much. As it is, we got home after midnight. Bogosian is one of the real poetry celebrities. You can check out some of his work here:

Douglas Rothschild was wearing the most hideous purple suit known to man. I actually got a photo, will post later. Though, the photo does not express well just how loud a shade of purple it is. I think he means to dress that way. There was a story about who owned the suit before and how someone bought it for him on Ebay. It had cacti painted on it. And, that was not the worst part. (Oh, he is a poet, too. And, a volunteer who organized a lot of the kitchen stuff.) We missed him reading, too.

*I felt like a child who takes off Santa’s beard. Because Brendan Lorber’s intro had said Brendan was a pilot, and he had the walkie talkie airing babble from a control tower. So, when he first started to interact with “Kennedy” there was a sense of “is this true?” Except, I figured out it was Doug Rothschild’s voice. Aha! You can’t fool me. I work in the kitchen. [Update: 1/3/08 – Fooled again! A member of the Poetry Project staff reports the voice on the other line was not Douglas Rothschild as I suspected…but…the staff member mischievously failed to tell me who it was…maybe it was Santa Claus?] [Update: 1/6/2008 – My husband Ian thinks that the reader on the other side of the crackly walkie-talkie was poet Eileen Miles. I suppose it was such a crackly and faraway voice, it could have been someone of either gender. Hmmmm…the mystery only deepens…]

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