Went into the city last night to the poetry project at St. Mark's to hear Doug Lang and Ron Silliman read their poetry. What a delight it was.
Doug is a dear friend from DC who I don't get to see that often, so it was just a pleasure to be in his company. He is also one of my favorite poets and writers but publishes sporadically and had never read at St. Mark's before, so it was an event just to hear him.
What a pleasant surprise to then discover he would read all new never before heard (at least by those of us in the room last night) poems, a series of sonnets that were as "chiseled" (old friend, poet Bruce Andrews' term) and yet expansive, as Michelangelo sculptures.
Each sonnet created a narrative drive without being a "story" and offered juxtapositions and dissonances that kept your mind alert and rewarded for it, as well as offering humor and poignancy wrapped in a word machine that seemed at once original and familiar.
I couldn't have asked for a better poetry experience. And thankfully my brain was functioning well enough to be able to follow his unique language structures and enjoy them (though walking to the event after dinner with another old friend and poet, Simon Pettet, and to the nearby bar after the event with a small crowd of old friends, I couldn't take the street sounds and sights, which up until the brain operation I'd always found exhilarating but now find almost painful).
Ron read second and it was a treat to hear him. I can't even remember the last time I heard him read but I suspect it was probably in the 1970s, which was also the last time I'd seen him I think. I first became aware of his work in the late 1960s or early '70s and included some in a poetry anthology I put together in 1974 that came out in '76 called NONE OF THE ABOVE. I dug his work then and have since been impressed with the ways he has expanded on his original poetic strategies.
Unlike Doug, Ron's work is much more readily available, but most of what he read last night was recent work and new to me. He is one of our most prolific poets and writers (his "Silliman's Blog" was one of, if not the, first poetry blog on the Internet and is I believe the most read). And whereas Doug's books, even his early novels, are mostly slim volumes, Ron has a few that rival Pound's CANTOS (like his ALPHABET, which is actually bigger than THE CANTOS).
It was a great match up, a terrific and even unique poetry event. And it was even more satisfying to me because there were so many old friends from the poetry world there, like my oldest friend in that world, Ray DiPalma, and the aforementioned Bruce Andrews and Simon Pettet, and John Godfrey and Vyt Bakaitis, Michael Gottlieb and James Sherry, Elinor Nauen and more.
Quite a delight, for which I'm grateful, as I am for so much these days, including the beautiful Fall weather we are having today, even though there are still small patches of snow around town and neighbors still without electricity or heat (Silliman, who lives in Pennsylvania said he's been without either for five days after the recent almost unprecedented October snowstorm) and still live wires blocking streets (including the one I live on) almost a week since the storm and the local power corporations still undermanned and under-equipped, though profits are up as usual (so how's that "let- corporations-take-care-of-us-they-can-do-it-better-than-the-government" thing working out for ya—and the rest of us—mister and missus rightwinger?).