Saturday late afternoon my friend Mary Kalyna picked me up at the Philadelphia airport, then we picked up CAConrad and we all went back to Mary's place for a sleepover party. Mary and Conrad are what I miss most about living in Philadelphia. We spent the night eating pierogis, stuffed cabbage, and borscht, all made by Mary's mom. We talked about scary things like Nostradomus, nuclear winter, and how Bush might bomb Iran, if Obama is elected. And we talked about annoying things, like bad dates and lazy neighbors. And then we watched Sarah Palin on SNL. Totally boring, we thought. The next morning we saw Colin Powell endorse Obama on "Meet the Press". Mary and I nearly wept. I was grateful for Powell's criticism of the Republicans' derogatory use of the Muslim religion. It was nice to hear a general criticize his own party for being racist. Can't exactly say that Powell is part of the liberal media or has a leftist agenda. Seems like his criticism would most likely be taken seriously by the people who need to hear it most.
That afternoon we spent in the museum with the Australian poet Pam Brown, the poet Frank Sherlock, and my parents. We were killing time until 4pm, when Pam and I were scheduled to read with Ron Silliman. I was excited and antsy about my reading, so the thing I remember most about the museum is the chocolate pudding. It's hard to look at art when you are getting ready to perform. My dad managed to tell us his entire history with Hooter's (the restaurant). It's a story I'd like to get on video tape and post to youtube. I was also grateful to have a little time to talk to Pam. I always enjoy hearing what foreigners find odd about our country. See was shocked by the gossipy article on Cindy McCain in the New York Times and was bringing it back to Australia to show people that such things counted as news here.
The reading itself was well-attended. Pam and I struggled with the microphone, but it seems from the audience response that we managed ok, despite our own discomfort at the stage. Pam's work is published by Salt Press. Short angular poems, spirited with a sense of humor, though not overly comical, just enough to handle the gravity of the work, something I very much respect in poems. I am looking forward to reading her work on the page. I usually absorb a lot at readings, but less so, when I am one of the readers. I'm not generally able to overcome my own nervousness to be a great listener.
Ron's reading I heard more of, because he read after me and there was a short break between our two readings. I am always reminded when I hear Ron's work that LANGUAGE poetry is realism, an extension of the Williams tradition. It seems that the idea of LANGUAGE poetry in the poetry world at large seems at odds often with the actual work. People love to hate what they haven't read in this case. But they most likely would dig it. I mean, who doesn't love poetry with lots of concrete nouns in it? My mother, whose native language is not English, had an easier time understanding Ron's work than mine. So to all of you who like to call any "cryptic" poetry, Language Poetry, do your homework and update your vocabulary.
My dad played official photographer. It was a little embarrassing. As soon as I get the photos, I'll post them.
My next readings are in Durham on November 20th and in NYC on December 9th. After Christmas, the reading schedule gets more intense, so lookout, especially if you live in the mod-west.
Jacob Russell wrote a nice review of the Philadelphia reading