Thursday, April 19, 2012


What a wonderful event. Catered (seems like the first time I encountered that at St. Mark's, at least with uniformed waiters working the room with platters of fancy delights), crowded (great to see so many young people out for Joe's work and so many older old friends, too many to list, but a great chance to let them know how much I still feel for them whether they believe it or not or care or not) (hmmm, I'm writing this a little like Joe after a night of hearing his words aloud).

One of the most gratifying things about the event was that with sixteen people reading, with very different voices and perspectives and selections, Joe's voice still transcended all that and his personality and character and living presence came through it all and made clear how great his writing is. I read a few selections I included in an anthology I put together in the early '70s that came out in I think '76, called NONE OF THE ABOVE. The first time Joe's writing was included in an anthology I'm pretty sure. I just wanted to include people whose writing I dug who weren't in any of the many poetry anthologies that came out in the 1960s and first few years of the '70s.

Anyway, I was so happy that his writing is getting this kind of attention and recognition. It's almost disorienting to see his name and work—THE COLLECTED WRITING OF JOE BRAINARD—under the logo of The Library of America (and more credit to them, and editor Ron Padgett and whoever else helped make the book happen). I can't think of any other writer they've published in what they consider the "American" canon (I always like to put that word in quotes as it usually is used to mean the USA and excludes a lot more of what is also "America") whose writing is anything like Joe's. Or maybe "like" isn't the right word. Any other writer who approaches writing the way Joe did and communicates with the reader as honestly and directly and clearly and succinctly and contains the unique combination of a childlike almost naive innocence and optimism with an old-person-like wisdom and world weariness no matter what age he was when he wrote it.

I wish you all could have been a part of the standing-room-only crowd that not only filled all the seats but the floor and leaned against every inch of wall space. Next best thing is to buy the book and I guarantee—if you dig honesty without arrogance or emotional manipulation—before you are half way through you will love Joe and his writing as much as I, and a lot of other discerning folks, do.


tom said...

It sounds like it was a great event. Any chance of any of it appearing on youtube? I have added the book to my "to buy" list. Good to hear many young people were there. We have our community poetry reading this Friday and the crowd is mixed. We sadly don't get much support from either university in town - both of which have creative writing classes and MTU publishes Pank magazine. Still - 15 to 25 isn't bad for the area we are in.

Lally said...

Tom, I didn't see anyone shooting it but then with such small devices I might just not have caught that.