Monday, January 13, 2014

KGB Bar anthology and local readings

Years ago, I stumbled onto an anthology called The KGB Bar Book Of Poems in a used bookstore. Being on the other side of the country from New York, I did not know that David Lehman and Star Black ran a weekly poetry series at the KGB Bar in the East Village. This book collects poems from some of the poets who read there during its first three years, including Charles Simic, Thomas Lux, Yusef Komunyakaa, Denise Duhamel, Marie Howe, Hal Sirowitz, John Ashbery, Robert Bly and plenty of other favorites so it's an impressive anthology of poetry on its own.

But along with a poem, it also includes anecdotes from those poets on the most memorable thing ever to happen to them at a poetry reading. This is what I love the best about this book. These tales and footnotes are hilarious, sad, sometimes even frightening and they echo in the back of my mind whenever I prepare for one of my own readings.

Erin Belieu was half way through her reading at an all-boys prep-school, when her wraparound skirt announced that it wasn't tied well enough, by dropping to the floor.

Denise Duhamel was threatened in the alley after judging a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Cafe.

But a common theme is showing up for a readings that are not well attended. Thomas Lux remembers entering an amphitheater (with several hundred seats) to find exactly ONE person in the audience. Additionally, that lone audience member was unconscious from a drug overdose. They called and waited for an ambulance to come get him and then went back home.

I also have a lot of empathy for these stories, since I have been hosting a monthly reading series for the past five years. We've had some rough and/or tragic situations here and there, but we are incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful audience that is talented and dependable.

We always begin with an open mic round. That's David Chorlton at the podium that co-host Bill Campana has dubbed "The Writer's Block."

Here are both of my distinguished co-hosts, Jack Evans and Bill Campana.

Our readings take place on 2nd Fridays
at {9} The Gallery in downtown Phoenix, if you're ever in the neighborhood.
1229 Grand Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85007

open mic starts at 7pm

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