1. Hi everybody! Talking Points, Poetry Project Dot Org version, is brought to you this week from Kansas City, Missouri, the land of my birth. I’ve been here for past five days, and I have gotten into some trouble. My friends in Kansas City keep more or less nocturnal hours and so I keep them too.
What’s more, I write this after two very strong gin martinis at the riverboat casinos. Right. Anyway, the trip has been terrific! The cultural highlights for me this time were getting to a) hang out with Anne Boyer! Anne Boyer lives in Kansas City! We had a terrific talk about conceptual writing and poetry and Kansas City and life. Anne Boyer is great. I also b) got to see Boy, the Ssion movie, showing at Grand Arts. Boy is so great, you guys. I know that most of you will not be visiting Kansas City in the next 16 days, but on the off chance…and there are openings elsewhere. The freaky adjacency I got to experience was seeing Purple Rain the night before for the first time (I know, wtf). Boy in the ecstatic penumbra of watching Purple Rain invoked some kinds of connections: just imagine Purple Rain only gay, Satanic, and more consciously manipulative of camp. Couldn’t be more highly recommended. Check it.
2. Many of you reading this have probably been to the Bay Area, and probably on poetry-related visits. Oh, this reminds me, I am SUPER interested in behind-back descriptions of what it’s like to be a poet and visit the Bay Area and hang out with the poets. I’ve heard that we “don’t laugh.” What else? I’m serious, this would make me laugh a lot I think, contrary to rumor. But anyway, I thought I’d give a little scene report from the Bay and talk about the active reading series’ that are happening.
Now, I know there’s this thing called “The Internet” where such things are described. And we all know that the readings are mostly sort of boring. But I want to give you the real scoop, direct from the source, not about the events: let’s talk afterparties.
On many Friday and some Saturday nights in the Spring and Fall, Small Press Traffic brings terrific talent to CCA and Timkin Hall in Potrero Hill. For the last couple of years the poets would go to Sadie’s Flying Elephant. Then Sadie’s became a different bar and there were grumblings from the poets that the new Sadie’s sucked as a spot for the afterparty. I was not one of them, actually. Partly because I sort of knew the bartender and he sort of now and then gave me free drinks. And partly because I’m loyal / lazy / suspicious of venue change. So then for a while there was this confusion, and when Samantha Giles became director of Small Press Traffic one got the sense that afterparty location took extremely high priority. So it was no surprise that this year, on an opening night in which CAConrad and Frank Sherlock killed it, that a new venue was announced nearby. It’s called Bloom’s Saloon and it’s up the hill a ways. So far I think it’s working out. The poets have gotten drunk, had interesting conversations, worshipped Conrad and Frank, painted nails, smoked weed out of a famous surrealist poet’s pipe, and looked at a big cruise ship. Oh, and I totally got free drinks from the bartender the first night. He told me over and over that I was a “good lookin’ man” and then the second time he told me that I had gotten even better looking but didn’t buy me a drink.
On some Fridays there are readings at Studio One arts space in Temescal, Oakland. Sara Mumolo hosts and she typically serves wine from Trader Joe’s and usually she gets this vinho verde which I quite like for the price. After the readings I don’t know what happens normally, because I am a terrible attendee of them, even though they’re great. K. Silem Mohammad and Stephanie Young read there this year and slaughtered it. And I just saw Kevin Killian and Aaron Kunin read there and that was awesome. But a couple of times the afterparty was at Sara’s house and they were really fun. We go to Safeway and buy a 30 pack of Tecate and then the poets drink them in the kitchen. Usually there’s pizza too.
Have you heard of David Highsmith’s Books and Bookshelves? Ya’ll really need to check it out next time you’re in town. It is CRAZY. Dude has like every Tuumba chapbook for list price. Stuff like that. It will freak you. Anyway, the store is sort of in the Castro / Duboce Triangle area. Usually David will have like a 12 pack of Pabst or something at the bookstore, but afterwards the poets go to Amber, this really weird bar down the street. Amber is weird for a few reasons. For one, you can smoke cigarettes in there. So I don’t know what that’s like for the poets who don’t like to smoke cigarettes at the bar. I do like to! But I’ll try not to next time and let you know what it was like. Also they have a lot of couches and fabric-covered chairs. I give that a big thumbs down. Couches in bars creep me out. It just feels like you’re definitely sitting on layers of sedimented cigarette ash and spilled beer, and that you’re probably sitting on all kinds of ejaculate. Right? Anyway, the after parties are usually kind of subdued because all the poets live in the East Bay and the readings are usually in the middle of the week, so if the poets even do go out, it’s not for very long. Except for the few straggling poets who still live in San Francisco. Sometimes we stay too late.
Once a month Erica Lewis curates three-person bills at Canessa Park on Saturday night. They are always well attended and Erica has become infamous for always having amazing little appetizers and cheese and food. So infamous that last time I went, to see Jacqueline Waters, Cynthia Sailers, and Julien Poirier, David Brazil and I convinced Alli Warren that she didn’t need to eat dinner. That was not true! But the snacks are good. Canessa is just below North Beach and above the Financial District and there are no good bars to go to at all. I mean, there are a couple of good bars in North Beach but you can’t go to them on Saturday nights. There’s a truly shitty bar next to Canessa called The Bubble Lounge that has red velvet ropes. Sometimes when the poets are standing outside of Canessa smoking cigarettes or talking they make funny faces at the people waiting in line to get in the Bubble Lounge. Once the poets went to the Sutter St. Station for the afterparty but it was too weird even for the poets. Now the poets go to this bar called, oh hell, I have no idea what it’s called. It sucks. but we go there because we’re poets and we want to be together. Well whiskeys are $7 (I know you New Yorkers are like, ding ding that’s like happy hour shit, but we’re spoiled here) and the staff are not into us at all. Last time we were there, I saw the saddest person-dancing-drunk-on-bar thing ever. And I totally snuck a flask in and didn’t give them any more of my money than I had to. That place is lame. But that’s where you’ll find us.
Finally, there’s the (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand. For years the poets would go to Luka’s down the street. Then earlier this year a new wine bar opened across the street and a whole movement erupted around moving the afterparty to this new place, which was called Mua. It happened for two consecutive months. Suzanne Stein and Alli Warren even published their opinions on the change in Try! magazine. But then, for some reason, we all decided to go back to Luka’s. So that’s where the poets go. The thing that was always tough at Luka’s is that some poets want to eat dinner after the reading and some poets just want to drink. And the tables are kind of small. So then you have poets sitting at small tables, and then nobody really talks or flirts or figures anything out, and nobody can talk to the poets who read there. But boy we were so stupid, because there is this awesome back room at Luka’s with a pool table, separate jukebox, and rarely any other patrons. They’ll even bring you food there if you order at the bar. So this is where the poets go now. My favorite part about going to Luka’s is that one bartender, who is almost always there on Sunday nights after 21 Grand, gives me free drinks. This is the object of some discussion and speculation, because I have no idea why she gives me free drinks. But she’s done it almost every month for the last two years. I mean, there are reasons why one gets free drinks: knowing the bartender, being flirted with by the bartender, being known for extreme generosity towards the bartender, etc. I fit NONE of those categories. And if she is flirting with me, it is, well, simply the weirdest, prolonged, and most inactive flirtation I have ever experienced.
Oh there are also tons of house readings but for those the afterparty is kind of the whole thing. They’re the best.
3. Speaking of readings, did you all read Eileen Myles’ terrific post on the Harriet blog about giving readings? Isn’t that awesome? I get terribly, terribly nervous before giving readings. But in the last couple of years I’ve done a lot of readings out of town, and those were almost always less awful in terms of the adrenaline and anxiety. The ones in the Bay Area remain the worst. It’s just, you know, I don’t want to let my friends down. And plus they never laugh so it’s hard to get a read on how anybody is feeling.
All that being said, the only time I really thought I was going to literally puke was when Alli and I read at the Poetry Project in 2007. I had to go outside and pretend I was cool in front of Gary Sullivan and went around the corner and decided whether or not to puke. I didn’t, but it was a close call.
4. Well, friends, let’s finish with some jams. This week I recommend checking out Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne, “I Can Transform Ya.” I know that many of you are still pissed at Chris Brown about “the Rihanna thing” and, fuck, I’m pissed off at him too. It’ll never be the same with me and Breezy. But the jam is great.
It does, I admit, sort of easily assimilate into a recent trend of contemporary jams, I think heralded by last year’s Jam Of The Year, T.I.’s “Whatever You Like:” the absolutely unlimited purchasing power of the lover on the beloved’s behalf. And of course it’s a comment on a culture obsessed with its own economic decline that turns to pop music to deflect any actual thought about the disasters of global capital—T.I. can fly you anywhere, girl. Fabolous has an entire song about not looking at price tags and hanging out all the time by a cash register, exhorting the beloved to “Throw It in the Bag.”
What makes “I Can Transform Ya” slightly more interesting in terms of this genre is that the money is not only capable of purchasing vast commodities and leisure services, but literally able to constitute its holder as trans-human (that’s at least Wayne’s implication, I think. There is a sort of “I am a god” trope that now and then emerges in his work.) Don’t get me wrong, we’re mostly still talking about shoes and buying cars and shit. But the association with Transformers too drives home the magical, alien character of the money form.