Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tied to the Bitchin' post...


It’s been awhile since I’ve posted – been out of town for the better part of a month but I’ve been checking in. First off – we could certainly use some new fodder for the Blind Review Friday’s portion of the blog.

Secondly – to piggyback a bit on Geoff’s post below I would be interested to see what folks list as their pet peeves in the “poetry scene.” I define scene rather loosely here – could be Cleveland could be the literary world as a whole. Maybe it’s contest fees maybe it’s reading hosts constantly screaming at you to “give it up!” for this or that reader – whatever it is let us know.

Personally I am offended by the feature reader who reads their work – cites a long ride home or some other pressing engagement – then heads for the door after one or two open mic participants. I watched a fairly well know reader in town pass notes to her/his entourage while a couple of people who sat through his/her reading took their turn at the open mic. Then, after two readers this person left. Lack of class in my book.

I know a LA poet who likes to go to open mics and read the sign up list as a roll call at the end of the reading to highlight how many folks come, read their stuff and leave.

So – any takers – what makes you nuts?

And – get those blind review submissions in.



John B. Burroughs said...

I thought about posting a blog about this several times -- but I'm not comfortable in the role of a relative newbie who dares to criticize. I prefer to accentuate the positive in public - and if I'm ever inclined to "improve" somebody I think I'm best served to begin with myself. That said, here are a few of my pet peeves. They're all general, not meant as criticism of anyone in particular. And just because something peeves me personally doesn't have to mean it's actually bad or that I even ought to be peeved. Some of these even amuse me as they peeve me.

1. Features who don't stay for the open mic. I realize some folks have to work early or have other good reasons for not sticking around til 1.a.m. on a poetry night. Still, generally speaking, it's rude to suggest "I the feature deserve to be heard and you don't." I won't agree to feature if I can't (for whatever reason) stick around for the whole event. And if I see someone else leave after his or her feature I'm uninclined to ever ask that poet to feature for a reading I host.

2. Featured poets (and others) who go into the other room during the open mic and not only ignore the poetry but also become a distraction to those who are reading or trying to hear. I have nothing against crazy-esque fun - and it can sometimes be excellent artistic fodder. But why would poets want to bury poetry?

3. Scheduled features who "forget" they're scheduled or otherwise don't show up or cancel at the last minute for dubious reasons.

4. Open mic readers who have to be found and/or called into the room for their turn - and then immediately go back to wherever else they were when they're done reading.

5. We have a huge poetry festival showcasing Cleveland - good poets and other folks from as far as Canada, Texas, Washington, and Massachusetts come to share and see what the fuss is about - the festival covers three days and features events at six venues of all kinds at all times of day in almost all parts of Cleveland - and well over half of the folks who consider themselves Cleveland's (and northeast Ohio's) most significant poets don't bother to come for any of them.

I suppose that's more than enough for now. ;)

Pressin On said...

hey that number five--at first i was like, what festival! how did i nothear about this! and then i thot, he must mean my Tres Versing the Panda. it is true that not as many Clevelanders showed to the events as one wld expect. but if u look at the Coventry library event in particular, so many awesome local read and they also read about Cleveland alot, which was cool, for the out of towners to see such hometown spirit and pride.

my pet peeve is that we always hear about the events before they happen, but not enough people post how the event went down. when there is some night with a bunch of poets reading, why not post how it went. what a highlight was. etc.
people in the audience, or whoever cld fill in the folks who couldn't come, after the fact. a good posting idea.

i also dont like when the intro to a poem is longer and more captivating that the poem.
why do poets even introduce poems?
read the poem let it stand for itself.
or read the poem, and maybe AFTER reading it, explain where u were when u wrote it or whatever.

also so many great poets on paper read their poems like they are reading from a textbook in class.
dont do that!!!!

Anonymous said...

1. I will confess to once being the feature who left before the open mic, but that was because I had my young son with me and there were reasons why I could not ask him to stay for another two hours or so and then endure a three hour drive home. Had I been by myself, I would have stayed, because a feature's not staying for the open mic is one of my biggest pet peeves. Seems to me it's the height of arrogance.

2. Someone who hosts you as a reader--not a local "feature-open mic" situation, but someone who invites you, say, to read or give a talk at her or his school or for her or his class, and you travel on your own dime, and he or she doesn't have the courtesy to offer you something to eat or drink, not even a bottle of water for while you are reading/talking.

3. People who try to embarrass you into buying their books by putting one, uninvited, in your hands or on your desk or anywhere somewhere near you where you will have physically to hand the book back to them.

John B. Burroughs said...

Ha! I must confess I had Tres Versing in mind. I was disappointed that some Cleveland poets couldn't make it to at least one of the venues on one of the days. The folks who did come were were pretty much all awesome - and I realize most folks have jobs, families, etc and can't make it to every single event. Plus I like to think that the folks who were meant to be there were there. So I didn't want to criticize, but I want to confess that it bothered me. But it didn't detract at all from me enjoying the whole weekend thoroughly. 'Twas perhaps the most memorable poetry experience of my life....

Oh - and for folks who are coming to this late, I swear I wrote numbers 1 thru 4 BEFORE last night's Lit Cafe event, where one of the scheduled features didn't show. But in last night's case, it ended up being a good thing - as the two poets who were tapped to replace the no-show were great.

John B. Burroughs said...

I like your idea, Bree, of writing about he events afterward. I try to do that - or at least I tried - after every reading. But when I was going to a lot of readings, it seemed I was writing more reviews than anything else, it was consuming all my writing time, and I began t feel I was repeating myself all th time, so I kinda took a break from it. But even when I don't write anything I try to capture the events I attend with photos and sometimes video.

John B. Burroughs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vertigo Xavier said...

Features who are unprepared. Features are scheduled weeks, sometimes months in advance. You should have some idea what you're going to read.

Poets who don't respond to feature invites. If you can't do a show that you were invited to feature at, a simple reply of "sorry, I'll be in (city/state/country here) that weekend" or "no, I can't do a show that night, maybe something next year?" is professional and courteous. We promoters need to know if you want to do the show or not, and if not we need time to plan a different show.

I know certain folks are gonna think this is specifically directed at them, but it is not. I've seen a surprising number of area poets do this... Poets who get uptight about haiku format. There's more than one way to paint a canvass, and there's more than one way to write a haiku. It is all art.

One more... Poets who ONLY attend readings if they are the feature. 'Nuff said.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Pressin On had said: i also dont like when the intro to a poem is longer and more captivating that the poem. why do poets even introduce poems?

I'll have to demur on this one. I do like to hear the poets talk about their poems-- this can really make a reading. It's often my favorite part (assuming that the poet isn't boring, of course, but mostly if a poet has something to say, then they have a good talk, as well). It's kinda like turning a haiku into a haibun, or a folk singer doing a rambling introduction before with the song-- the experience of the whole can be more than the sum of the parts.

What I don't like is when a poet explains the poem-- I agree with you there; a poem should explain itself. If it doesn't make its point well enough for the audience to understand, then it doesn't help to have the explanation pounded in.

Dianne Borsenik said...

I agree with just about everything posted in this blog and the above comments. I would like to add that one of my peeves is when I'm approached by a poet (usually with a new chap or poetry book to promote), aggressively seeking to be featured at an event I'm booking/hosting-- and he/she has never bothered to attend any of the previous events. These are usually the same poets who have never come to any of my featured readings. That's a very self-centered way of looking at the poetry scene, in my opinion. You need to give recognition and respect to your fellow poets, if you want to get it back.

pottygok said...

1) People who don't show up to readings to hear the feature, but only read their work.

2) People who don't follow moderated reading guidelines, especially because there are plenty of places to drop F-Bombs in the Cleveland Scene.

3) People who know the feature is trying to sell their books, but don't buy one (something of which I'm equally guilty as anyone).

4) People who insist what they're writing is haiku, but clearly haven't studied haiku, read haiku, or any of the modern (and I might add Western) haiku handbooks/writing guides/anthologies that exist. (Hi, Vertigo!!!)

Pressin On said...

kind of in the vein of what dianne said--people who send me a chapbook of poetry, when they've never sent a single poem or purchased a book (or likely, even read a book by my press), and then act put out when i suggest other presses. i am pretty sure its common practice to know a press and what types of work they print before submitting. if u don't, you are likely wasting time.

yeah, j.c. u do alot of post-event posting and vids and general broadcasting...its awesome. and i agree there were some good quality guys and gals absent from Tres Versing, but next time. and i am happy it was one of yr faves. mine too, but of course. i dont think the readers could have been more diverse, or spectacular.

how about a room of thirty people for a reading from a book and three books are sold? it is almost certain to happen, sadly. a beer at the bar is six dollars (after tip) and a book is what? 12, on average? a movie is nine. some book launches even offer munchies. hey, buy the book, buzzards!

and.....since we're griping, buy the book you plan to have signed from the bookstore you are attending. if u have a copy already, give that one to a friend. the bookstore ought to make a buck for presenting the talent. (and on a 12.00 book they are likely making like 3.00, as most local bookstores take only a 20-30 percent from local authors). (not JB or Borders, obviously).

why the haiku
surfaces like leaves in pond fractures kills me

sammy greenspan said...

Thanks for starting the thread, Michael, and to all you other contributions.

We poets can be overly peevish. Sure, it's important to have common sense and respect. Obviously, if you come to read at either the open mic or as a featured reader, it's best to be physically and otherwise present for all the other poets. It's about the work and it's about building community.

As for not previously attending a feature venue, geeze, I would far rather be able to scope out a venue before being a featured reader. Every venue has its own personality and I love to tailor a reading to fit. If I don't get there before a scheduled feature, it's not for lack of interest.

If you see someone leave early, don't get your panties all in a bunch. Maybe you know the worst cases, but that's not always the reason. I gave a featured read this spring down in Bellville to which I drove two hours and had to drive further south, after, all during treatment for an acute illness. The emcee was aware of this ahead (and I accepted the reading with that caveat). I still stayed almost till the end, which probably looked like I was being rude when in fact it took a supreme effort, and was a risk for my drive which still lay ahead.

I usually don't "announce" that I have to leave early in such situations because it seems to only further draw attention to my "special" status, which isn't really special, just what it is.

I know other poets who are struggling with personal or family illnesses or other pressing Real Life Issues (see: small children, in previous post), whose choice would be to never accept a featured reading if they were held absolutely to the Must Stay doctrine. I want to hear them! So if they have to bug out early, I'll live with that.

For health reasons I usually have to leave my favorite readings early even when I come for the open mic, or just to listen. Not about arrogance. Just my reality. (Thank You, to those rare folk who host earlier readings!)

Some poets who are publishing widely and asked to read further afield, may in principle wish to do regular open mics when not the featured reader, but rarely have the time.

The same weekend as Tres Versing festival there were several conflicting poetry events in northern and mid-Ohio. It's a surfeit of riches. That's a good thing!

Just some additional perspectives. See y'all at the next reading (I hope)...


John B. Burroughs said...

I agree the "stay all night" rule shouldn't be hard and fast, though in ordinary cases it remains a good guideline. A couple of months ago I left the Lit Cafe early because my wife had to get up for work at 4:30 a.m. She wanted to go to see Maj and Lang feature but made me promise I'd break my rule and leave early. ;) I was afraid to sign up for the open mic (and didn't) because I didn't want folks to think I'd just waited for my turn to read before leaving. I have no problem if one of my features leaves early if they have a good reason. For example, at Lix and Kix in November we were in the middle of blizzard conditions and our featured poet had to drive all way to Ashtabula to get home - so we happily sent him home before it got even worse out - and indeed were happy he was able to make it at all. Context is everything.

Good point about the surfeit of riches, Sammy. We're lucky to live in a region where there is so much poetry. The same month we had Tres Versing in Cleveland, we also had the Jawbone festival in Kent and several readings affiliated with the Hessler Street Fair - in addition to our dozens of regular monthly readings across NE Ohio. We also had the Cavs in the playoffs on what looked like a sure championship run.

michael salinger said...

We’ve been talking about featured readers who don’t stick around for the open mic portion of the evening.

What about the features (and open mic’ers) who stick around TOO LONG. In most cases twenty to thirty minutes is plenty of time for a reader. Two pieces at an open mic maybe a dozen or so of reasonable length for the featured readers. After this I believe one is taking advantage of their audience. Isn’t it better to leave an audience wanting more?

Instead – time after time I have found my attention wandering, my eyes glazing and actually feeling assaulted by a longwinded poet. I have hadmy mind changed about a person’s work because they went on and on and on. Heck I’ll name names – I’ve had the opportunity to catch a couple sets by Toledo area poet John Dorsey. I initially found his stuff entertaining and clever – for the first twenty minutes or so. He went on for at least just as long again – and I have to admit I became more interested in when he would stop and let some other readers take the mic than what he was saying.

Thoughts? Am I just an old fart?

How long should a feature set and an open mic appearance be?

Pressin On said...

Michael-- i like to have readers plan on 15 minutes, but i tell them prepare 12 minutes of poetry!
ten minutes is even an enormous amount of time, seeing how thrift of word is so common in poetry. and twenty minutes is the most id like to hear even my most beloved poets read.

open mic, i think the 3 poems each is a good key. or round robins or read from where u sit or stand can keep things fresh, more interactive and engaging.

as to Sammy--i seriously agree. i am chronically ill and often in pain. if i make it to a reading, chances are i am there despite pain, so if i duck out i feel insecure, alright, but i do it of must.

what about those who are shuffling the whole time someone reads, looking for what they will read?
cant we at least pretend to listen?

John B. Burroughs said...

Ha! Michael, you have a great point about readers going too long. We're generally flexible at Lix. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is cool. 20 to 25 is ideal. From some poets, 30 minutes feels like an eternity - but I tend not to ask those to feature.

For the record, I heard Dorsey feature twice this year - at the Ground Level in Toledo and at Bela Dubby in Lakewood - and I didn't think he went on too long either time. In fact, he left me satisfied and/or wanting more.

As for the open mic - it depends on how much time we have left after the features and how many poets are signed up to read. I try to remain flexible with the rules. But if a host asks you to stick to two poems each so every has a chance to read, folks ought to try to respect that. However, I'll admit that if I know someone has driven a long way to attend and/or is a fairly engaging reader, I might be inclined to give him or her a bit more leeway - albeit within reason.

Theresa Göttl Brightman said...

This is a fun thread--kinda like a big group therapy session...

I'm gonna add one more...

Poets who assume that you want to trade your book for theirs, sight unseen--especially before you've even had a chance to hear or read the other poet's work yet. If I want someone's book, I always offer to pay first, and if they suggest a trade, then I'll gladly accept. Even when published by a small press, poets often need to pay something to get copies of their own books to sell. I don't think it's very fair to try to guilt someone into giving away a copy for free.

michael salinger said...

Hey John - I think you may be right on the Dorsey comment.

It was not a feature where I saw him go on so long. It was an open mic slot where he went on for about forty minutes. Which I think is even more of a faux pas.

sammy greenspan said...

Here's what I think, Michael: different strokes for different venues. I'd like to see a bunch of different formats emerge, not just one rule of thumb. I love mixed poetry/music venues, would like to see more collaborative work across genres. Love the spontaneous read-around format of Jawbone too.

Americans have pervasive ADD. We don't like to be asked to focus on anything for much more than twenty minutes at a stretch. I think there are a few readers out there whose work holds up far longer and I'd love to be challenged by occasional longer readings--by selected feature readers, well-vetted by their peers.

Individuals who hijack an open mic for personal tomes, rants and other drivel are hostile interlopers who give poetry readings a bad name. When I rule the world, emcees will possess the traditional cane for required removals, to be followed by ritual "stoning" with crumpled pages of said over-long and self-indulgent tome. Not that I have an opinion.

Shelley Chernin said...

Maybe it's the great weather, but I've been having a hard time thinking of anything to kvetch about. However, as I've followed this discussion, I've found it interesting to note that nearly all of the complaints have to do with poetry readings, mostly from the perspective of promoters and feature readers. We're missing some perspectives here. Where are the people reading at open mics who are not features? Where are the people who work primarily in print?

Here's a pet peeve of mine on the publication side -- publishers who put out a call for submissions and then don't respond to people who submit poems. Not even a response to a polite follow-up inquiry.

sammy greenspan said...

Shelley, I work primarily in print (though I work in the necessary music of the poem). Readings for me are an adjunct and I'm not usually at a reading as a feature, but as an open mic reader or simply a listener. My rant about individuals who hijack open mics was from the perspective of a listener.

Non-responsive publishers are generally either disorganized, overwhelmed or both. It's not usually personal, as aggravating as it can be to authors. Small press folk tend to be arts types rather than business types (and for the most part, thank goodness!). So organizational issues are a hazard of the trade. JMHO, of course.

Shelley Chernin said...

Sammy, Sounds like your relationship to writing and attending readings is much like mine.

I won't got to open mic readings unless I'm in the right mood. Otherwise, I almost invariably leave with a headache. I go more for the enjoyment of communal sharing than with any expectation that I'll hear poetry that really touches me (although occasionally there are wonderful surprises).

If I'm in that right mood, feeling open and curious, I like the glimpses inside people, the opportunity to hear something of the intimate or vulnerable that is often hidden. I try to share that part of myself if I read.

In that spirit, I don't much care whether the poetry is long or ranting or boring. I take in whatever is offered.

Anonymous said...

I don't like when readers go on too long either. Don't you just get sick of yourself at a point, I think?

If I am at a reading, I like to stick around and hear what's going to be read, feature or not. Although, if I stay too long and it is at a bar I tend to spend too much money on beer. Does anyone else have this trouble?

jc said...

I do, Anonymous. Sometimes I think I should take the money I spend on beer and buy more poetry - or something. ;)


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau