So, it’s getting to be that time of the month again. We’re feeling bloated, cranky, and craving a little free verse with our iced mocha latte. Thankfully, our hipper-than-thou neighbor, Reb Livingston, is around to step in with her monthly poetry column: Crucial Rooster.
Crucial Rooster: Poetry Column by Reb Livingston
Six years ago I took my sister to the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival. During our drive from Virginia to New Jersey she asked questions regarding what to expect at a poetry festival. The question that mattered to her most was “Are people going to be wearing berets?” Of course not! Nobody wears a beret to a poetry reading! No doubt you see where this is headed, we showed up and saw hundreds of berets of all different colors. It was a low moment for poetry and I was mortified. To make matters worse, a friend who met us there exclaimed, “I’m thinking about buying a beret!” to which I snapped You’ll look like Monica Lewinsky!
Sometimes I can be kind of bitchy. My bitchiness is for the good of the world.
Crummy poetry festivals make me really bitchy. I’m talking about the kind that makes you pay money to sit on filthy, uncomfortable folding chairs or squat in a mud field for days. The kind that shuttle the “celebrity poets” into special “VIP” tents before and after the readings, protecting the poets from the people. What about the people? Give them smelly port-a-johns and cold water to wash their hands. It doesn’t matter, it’s not like they’ll get a chance to shake hands with the genius Pulitzer Prize winner anyhow.
Imagine my glee two weekends ago when I was invited to read in the best poetry festival in the world: The Carrboro Poetry Festival. You probably haven’t heard of this festival which is a shame because Carrboro Poet Laureate Patrick Herron knows how to throw a bitchin’ poetry party (which is totally different from the bitchy poetry party I’d likely throw). I’m pleased to report the place was stocked with clean bathrooms and everyone had access to all 39 poets. Power to the people! Huzzah!
The readings? Spectacular. Life changing. Yeah, sure, that’s what I said. Where else could one hear Gabriel Gudding read about his buttocks, Linh Dinh read about anuses and Christan Bök, the font of alien noise, all in the same room? But lest I lead you to believe the Carrboro Poetry Festival was a parade of asses, it was not. There was ass kicking too. Harryette Mullen manipulated language from her latest and must-own collection, Sleeping with the Dictionary. Tanya Olsen shared a hysterical poem about ending a relationship with Lisa Marie Presley. D.C. poet Rod Smith, who at first struck me as rather unassuming got on stage and ASSUMED. Whew. Disabuse me, baby. I like it.
There was a playful and romantic poetic performance between nobody Ken Rumble and fiancé Kathryn Salisbury. I say “nobody” because Ken doesn’t yet have a book, but he should. Don’t you know? The best poets are nobodies. “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” Emily Dickinson. Rest my case. If you attended the CPF, you would have gotten an opportunity hear the enthralling nobody Ken Rumble before any of your friends.
Because seriously, who cares what big name poets your dreary, so-last-decade-pals are reading? You’re better than them. Read up to your potential. Are you listening to your grandma’s old 78s and dancing the watusi? No way! Way? No! I think you should consider making the trip to North Carolina and attend next year’s festival and in the meantime, order yourself these two poetry journals:
The Hat: Editors, Jordan Davis and Chris Edgars, $12
Issue 6 of The Hat has just been released and all the sexy poets are talking about it. (There are sexy poets? Yes, there are “celebrity” poets and there are “sexy” poets, now stop interrupting.) Why are the sexy poets talking about it? Cause it’s awesome. This yearly publication offers a glimpse of 81 intriguing poets. What’s the significance of 81? There is none, they publish 75 writers or 200 pages, whichever comes first. The significance is in the poetry. What kind of poetry? I get annoyed with questions like that and tend to respond with answers like “poems with words”, but Jordan Davis has the more elegant response “We empathize with the view of poetry as a secular religion . . . I can understand how sublime feelings would make anybody establish rules for living.”
There isn’t one style of poem touted and that’s what makes reading The Hat so enjoyable, so sublime indeed. Every poem is surprise. It’s impossible to pick a few lines from a single poem to stand representative of the whole issue, so I’ll simply pick a few lines from the poem “Horses: Why I like/dislike them” by Daniel Nester:
instead of interviewing the true athlete the animal we’re / stuck with the helium-sounding self congratulatory / jockey a freak of nature who has no reason to be / in the winner’s circle oh i know there’s the whole / shitting outside issue with horses but they got people / to sweep that up and so i think horses are pretty cool
Other pretty cool poets included in this issue are Anselm Berrigan, Joseph Donahue, Sasha Frefe-Jones, Sarah Manguso, Michael Schiavo, Prageeta Sharma, Tony Tost, Jonah Winter and many others.
The Canary: Editors, Joshua Edwards, Anthony Robinson, Nick Tremlow, $10
The poet hotties (Shush!) are also twittering about issue 4 of The Canary, with a cover the color of a roasted pepper that doesn’t trigger any images of Tweety bird. The Canary roosts in Eugene, Oregon, but some of its editors have migrated to Philadelphia and New Zealand. The editors strive to offer a good mix of the established and the up and coming and this issue meets that goal with work by better known poets such as Lisa Jarnot, Fanny Howe, David Trinidad and Cole Swenson as well as work by newer poets Zachary Schomburg, Aaron Tieger and Laurel Snyder (featuring a naked Britney Spears).
To say this issue is hot would be redundant. To say the poems are finger-licking good would be creepy and just plain wrong. So I’ll settle on the adjective electric which is just another way of saying sexy, but I’ve already mentioned sexy poets and I don’t want you to think I’m not discriminating with poems, but I am sincere and would never waste your time by pointing you towards the lukewarm.
For instance, the last stanza of Danielle Pafunda’s libidinous “Small Town Rocker” reads:
So much later you found a phone booth. Called me up / on my new red phone. I felt like the Commissioner, or like Batman / on the wrong end of things. I heard the thrum-thrum of your voice, / your lighter click, the little signs. I took off my target t-shirt, I took off / my shiny pants. I stripped down quietly and I unplugged my lights.
See, I might be blunt and offend to save you from a serious fashion faux pas, but I would never steer you wrong when it comes to poems. Until July, darling reader, I think of you often.