Friday, January 22, 2010

Contemplating Jazz....

Dr A has an exercise she puts her students through where she asks them to name as many living poets as they can.  You can imagine they have some difficulty with this -- you might too -- and they often neglect to name Dr A herself.  She takes this in good stride. 

Being a living poet is a lot like being a working actor.  Within your own scene, things are alive and everyone knows everyone else.  You find regular opportunities to practice your art in ways the rest of the world is not even aware of.  Unless they have friends who are living poets.

Live jazz at an Irish pub?  Absolutely.  And once a month, Beat Night.

At Portsmouth, NH's Press Room, musicians meet poets in an improvised celebration of words and music, where featured artists are booked months in advance and attended by a standing room only crowd awaiting their own moment during Open Mike.

Come, she said.  I am booking a room to stay the night.  And so I did, though I had very little expectation for this event.

4 poets and 7 musicians, beginning with Tim Mason, who entered the bar on the phone, to applause, and told his caller that he had to go on stage now. 

The poets spent a few seconds with the band leader to set a mood, identify a location, or a theme (desert storm...go.) Collaboration occurred before our very eyes, as the band leader listened to the poem, the band listened to him, and the poet listened to the band.

Little Bird... with your nose pressed against the pet shop window....

Portsmouth is to NH as Austin is to TX.  It may be that the more conservative the state, the more passionate its hippies.  I realize this was Beat poetry night, and it played that way, but the kings and queens of the room were true Boomers.  They sat up front, some with their youthful disciples, and hummed like another orchestra section when they heard what they liked.  A Theremin section, perhaps.  One sweet boy with Kerouac's dark eyes actually snapped his fingers in approval -- sincerely.

Drip.  Drip.  Drip.

I had a Cougar moment later with him, when he read his own work during Open Mike.  I don't remember what he said anymore. Momma had had a bottle of wine by then.  But I...liked it.

I sing the body electric...

Ok, Whitman was no Beat.  But only because he hadn't thought of it yet.  What that band could have done with Had I the Choice.  In fact, I challenge the group here and now to have a Whitman night, with band, and invite Open Mikers to draw a poem out of a bowl and read it cold.  I am full of ideas.  Someone else will have to make that happen.


Old Hollins joke -- how to get an A in Writing Seminar.  Cover the Big 3.  Really all you had to do to get an A in Writing Seminar was survive it.  I famously did not.  Best Hollins GDR reading moment - Baroness and I with church giggles during the closing line

And he put the cigarette out / in my palm

There were no giggles at the Press Room.  The featured poets were phenomenal and the band a constant surprise.  The Open Mikers were brave first-timers reading poems from notebooks and folded papers produced from pockets.  They gave the band a try and were applauded just for trying, and again when they had finished.

I have written 65 songs.  And they are all about Joe.

They say theatre does not exist because the world needs theatre, but because people need to make theatre.  This may not be true about poetry, but I think it is true about Beat Night.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Church giggles in the GDR - ah, pleasant memories.


Comments Build Community! We thank you for yours. Spam comments are not welcome and will not be posted.