Monday, March 31, 2014

Literary Oddities Sideshow Reading with Mutant Pinatas

I love when offbeat readings come my way, so I was excited to participate in Four Chambers Press' Literary Oddities sideshow experiment in the midst of the annual Mutant Pinata exhibit.

There were musicians playing in one corner as poets read simultaneously, exhibited as living art around the rest of the room.

Meanwhile there were other freaks working the crowd, jugglers, and a carnival barker trying to draw attention on the street. It was a symphony of chaos and it was beautiful.

With so much going on, I knew the expectation would be to do loud poems in a loud voice. But I wanted to see how much intimacy you could bring to an atmosphere like this, so I decided to alternate between loud poems that could fight to be heard amid the insanity and quieter poems that would read privately into one person's ear.

I try to be receptive to the magic of spontaneous moments that can happen at any live event so when I saw Bill Campana and his daughter walk in front of me, I said that I would do my "Poem Yet To Be Written By Bill Campana" next. Bill said he wished he had a copy, so we could perform it together. There would never be a more appropriate moment than right there, so I pulled him up and we bellowed out a duet that was almost enough decibels to break open a few of the pinatas.

It was so much fun that Bill suggested we try it again sometime with four of us reading it simultaneously like the infamous Zaireeka album from the Flaming Lips!
So at least there's that to look forward to.

To finish my set, I collaborated with the audience on a "cut-up poem" inspired by the technique William S. Burroughs used to love (but without the scissors). I read from Jeffrey McDaniel's book The Splinter Factory and every time someone hit me I would open to a different page and start reading at another random spot until getting hit again by the next person. It was a "Pinata Cento."

Selfie with Jack Evans, Ashley Naftule, and Four Chambers Asst. Editor Jared Duran who organized this whole thing.


  1. Piñata centos? I love it! This looks like a lot of fun...

  2. Shawnte - You make poetry so refreshing and fun. I really like your approach of creating connection and intimacy by sharing poems one-by-one, ear-by-ear.

  3. At first, I was going to do my entire set that way. Just a bunch of secret poems shared in the middle of a crowd. But I decided to wait and do that in another venue.