So last night's reading was as historic as I thought it would be, though not everyone there may have recognized that or why it might be. Scheduling it for Mother's Day meant many of those who might have shown up couldn't. And turns out the Internet site for the reading listed it variously as happening at 7PM or 8PM. So initially only a few folks were there at 7 and most of us thought the gate up the stairs meant the bar wasn't open but turns out it was.
The small venue filled up eventually with what I would call a choice group of people. Some historic figures in my literary world, like old friends the poets John Godfrey and Elinor Nauen and reacquainted old friend Don Yorty, other creative old and newer friends like Jamie Rose in from L.A. or John Restivo in from Long Island, and poet Rachel Diken from Jersey with me, and NYU poetry scholar Berengere Riou and more, making me feel fortunate to be among them all.
Unfortunately the reading started abruptly for this spontaneous reader, when I was introduced first and would not have the opportunity I usually prefer to hear others and then react with poem choices that reflect and comment on what came before. So I made instant choices from Swing Theory that were not my usual crowd-pleaser kind of performance poems, and from behind a lectern with a low lamp that cast weird shadows on a reader's face (while making my neck oddly glow so it finally looked thick and rugged rather than skinny and breakable) with a microphone that probably wasn't necessary but I used anyway since I had to bend over to read the poems in the lamp light...
...all making me feel more confined and unable to use my body in the ways I normally would for a reading, which helps me emphasize the rhythms and music of my words, at least to my ear, but as a result causing me to give a slower and more thoughtful rendering of the poems I chose, so all in all a uniquely challenging but for me also uniquely satisfying reading.
Then Lewis Warsh read from his terrific new book Alien Abduction, keeping it shorter than I did and leaving us all wanting more of his witty yet moving takes on his life experiences and observations. After which the woman who organized the reading introduced Dale Herd, who read from his new collection of published and unpublished short stories, Empty Pockets.
That to me was what made the reading historic. To my knowledge Dale hadn't read in New York since a reading he did in the early 1970s with Terence Winch at The St. Mark's Poetry Project. And for all I know it may be another several decades before he reads again, and being that he's now like me in his seventies, the opportunity to hear him so firmly articulate his perfectly crafted stories seemed to me like a gift from the writing god(s).
It was a long evening of words, yet for me it was too short. I could have listened to more of both Dale and Lewis for quite a while longer. As it is, I feel privileged and honored to have been a part of such a unique gathering and reading experience. May there be many more (but with better lighting and not on a holiday).