Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poetry Fests—why not take the whole week off?

i have been to many poetry festivals. usually lasting 2-4 days, they consist of constant readings and socializing among poets, who, as we all know can be socially challenged. but when ALL around are poets, there is noone there to throw a stone. the stimuli build, books fly off shelves as collected words suddenly seem important enough to part with cash for, friends are made and bodily clocks lose and gain minutes.

never did i expect that one day i would pay air-fare and make hotel reservations to go and read poetry for ten minutes, and listen to 16 hours of others reading! i’ll write about two stand-out fests i attended.

the 40 years since Berkeley 1968 reunion of John Oliver Simon, Richard Krech & Charles Potts (May 11-14, 2008) included readings by Richard Denner, Hugh Fox, Alta, David Bromige & myself. it took place in Berkeley, CA on some of the same streets these hoodlums gathered on to gripe about Vietnam and civil rights. the poets, mainly in their late sixties, have writ all these decades, so inspired the few of us who’ve only recently encountered hemmeroids. all continue publishing, and each of them only with small, independent publishers you’ve likely not heard of. unless you are a fan of the underground scene. Krech is a lawyer, Potts made it big in real estate, Denner is a Buddhist monk, complete with robes. Hugh Fox is an archaeologist, who also happens to have been Board of Directors of COSMEP (1968-1996). i think what was remarkable (besides all of the grilled vegetables), was that for the younger gen who made it out there, these poets were proof one never has to pay a reading fee, or enter contests, in order to be published. they can be world-class salesmen, or physicists. and that indy poets are birds of a feather.

another took place in Northamton, Mass., in November. Fest Ecstatique, put on by Byron Coley (of Arthur’s Bull Tongue review) brought together Charles Plymell, & the aforementioned Potts & Krech & Simon, with the young Sonic Youth-inspired poets, like Angela Jaeger, Matt Krefting & Wesley Eisold. Mike Watt, yes, the bass player! read poetry for the first time. New York poet George Wallace (who came to Cleveland for Patchen Fest 2007) wowed the red barn with his poem on Big America. and the whole weekend was interspersed with noise music and indy beats, including a grand performance by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. the weekend was a chance to meet fellow pubs from places like Montreal & Delaware. again, the generations spanned from getting pretty old, to just getting away from the ‘rents.

keep yer ears peeled, (and inboxes checked) for upcoming fests put on by C. Allen Rearick and Mark Kuhar this late Fall. (anyone got the scoop on either of these fine functions?) each have intimated to me much poetry will be had. consider taking days off from work, to enter into the big, intertwining world of small poetry. what i have learned from such gatherings is the family tree of small press has a branch or twig for any ovus who care to be ‘in the leaves’.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for exposing us to great poets and scenes outside Ohio. Will check out some of these names. I trust your judgment.


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