Our most Crucial Rooster is back— tanned, rested and ready to take us through another month of required reading in the land of poetry. As far as we're concerned, the talented and vibrant Ms. Livingston has had far too much fun this summer— though we must admit, we do enjoy living vicariously through her. As for us, we're still here, working, writing, and dragging the kids to the local library for The Washington Post. Is it happy hour yet? TGIF, folks. Enjoy.
Crucial Rooster: Poetry Column by Reb Livingston
After a month of too much traveling, too much spending, too much food it’s time to downsize, consume a little less. My ass is big enough to cook a turkey inside. I need to think smaller.
Am I talking about a new diet? Dusting off the old Thigh Master? Hell no, I’m talking about the premiere issue of The Tiny (Editors: Gina Myers and Gabriella Torres, $8). It’s one of those poetry magazines that highlight young up-and-coming poets. You know, one of those magazines I’m always waving my pom poms for. I knew I was going to love this publication as soon as I scanned the table of contents because Karl Parker is among the many notable poets. Why more people don’t know Karl Parker’s work is beyond me.
Let me give you a little background on Karl. Actually it’s not really his background, but my background and how I came to discover him. Think of me as the Christopher Columbus of poetry – sure there were already thousands of people who already knew about “America” cause they were living there, but it was new to Columbus and that’s enough for the history books.
In 1993 my new boyfriend (and now husband) drove me to my cousin Michael’s dinner party in Pittsburgh. The guest list was comprised of Michael’s friends and fellow Pitt students and two dorks from Carnegie Mellon that Michael was obligated to invite being I was kin. Over our spaghetti and Italian sausage I briefly chatted with a high strung fellow with sloppy hair. That was Karl. The rest of the evening I chatted with some girl who told me about this one CMU guy she just met a dance club who turned out to be my recent boyfriend. The conversation went something like this:
“You dated a gay guy for two years?”
“Not gay. He just likes to dance and wears a leather jacket.”
“How serious of a drug user is he?”
“He doesn’t use drugs – not at all. Never even tried them. He’s as clean as they come. He’s just naturally spacey like that.”
My most memorable impression from that evening was the look she gave, the look of “You clueless, naïve, dumb girl.”
So my one and only opportunity to talk with Karl Parker, one of the best young poets writing today, was squandered arguing over my ex-boyfriend’s sexual orientation.
Story of my life.
In 2001 I sent my book manuscript to my cousin Michael. He responded a few weeks later with “Enclosed is my friend Karl Parker’s manuscript (you met him at my dinner party). You should read his poems. They’re very good.” I was jealous that my cousin thought this guy Karl’s poems were very good so his manuscript sat on my desk unread for months. Eventually I got around to reading it and thought, OK, these are pretty damn good poems, I’ll have to keep my eye out for this guy.
I never stumbled across his work again. In 2004 with Molly Arden, I launched our own poetry journal, No Tell Motel, and invited Karl to submit work. I asked for 5-8 poems, he sent 50. Normally this would have pissed me off. Actually, it did piss me off, but only for a moment. As soon as I started reading his poems I had a new problem. Which ones would I take? I wanted all of them. You see Karl writes poems that make me want to track him down and make out with him. His poems are smart and playful and tender and sad. They have that fall-in-love inducing vulnerability.
You’re thinking to yourself, “I’ve read this far and still know nothing about the new poetry magazine called The Tiny and practically nothing about Karl Parker and his work. The only thing I know is that the chick writing this has a penchant for pretty boys and kissing strangers.”
And I’m telling you you’re absolutely wrong on all accounts. Are you not paying attention to a word I’ve written? You’re thinking “so what’s the deal with that ex-boyfriend?” You’re getting sidetracked, not paying attention, just like I wasn’t paying attention 1993. It doesn’t matter if I truly knew my ex-boyfriend or spent 2 years in an oblivious la-la beard land mistaking Ecstasy for Tic Tacs. What’s important is ordering your copy of The Tiny right now so you can read Karl’s three poems, especially “River Nocturne” which ends:
So: we have a river. I find the fact moving in itself. Used to metabolize the soil, and all. Once some local kids exploded overseas. And feeling’s like a numb limb. Such and so many quiet leafy ways to die, to blow away. Birdsounds everywhere weave in and out of these thoughts, most at home toward morning. Rust-red and pink ripples, alive.
Next you need to read the rest of the poems and make your own list of which poets you want to track down and kiss. It might be a long list, some of the contributors to this issue are Katey Nicoia, Hazel McClure, Jim Behrle, Maggie Nelson, Aaron Tieger, Daniel Nester, Danielle Pafunda and many others.
If you’re in the DC area this Saturday, September 10, you can hear The Tiny contributors Erica Kaufman, Shafer Hall, Maureen Thorson and Mark Lamoureux read at the Ruthless Grip Reading Series at the Washington Printmakers Gallery at 7:30 p.m. The reading series is hosted by Lorraine Graham, Kaplan Harris and M Magnus.
But please, whatever you do don’t go up and kiss any of these poets unless you get his or her explicit permission. I can’t be held responsible for your ass thrashing or night in the pokey. Remember, the point of writing these lists is the fantasy not actually going through with it.
Oh, and what about my ex-boyfriend? Where is he now? Did you think I’d really leave you hanging? He’s married with a one year old working a job that requires him to pee in a cup on a regular basis. In your face! girl whose name I don’t remember and face I can no longer visualize.
POSTSCRIPT: Consider helping some of the smaller, younger victims of Katrina by donating money to First Book.