amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tree Reading / Jon Paul Fiorentino

Last night at the Poison Oak on Laurier. First Tree of 2006, first Tree with Rhonda at the helm (ouch, the helm of a tree...the root maybe?) It was odd not seeing James and Anita, and Jennifer there, but they deserve a break after six years. Rhonda implemented some changes to the open set immediately: a 4 minute max and a set list limited to 8 people. Since my attention span is three minutes, this works pretty well for me. I enjoyed it when Rhonda called "time." This means the open mic is now just 20 minutes long, which is perfect. The open mic set was prose heavy as it often is. I'm hoping this new time limit will cut off some of the deadwood prose. I do like hearing some prose at readings, but it's very difficult to deliver prose, and open mikers have trouble chosing engaging pieces that work well in front of an audience. It's the same with long narrative poems. They are bad ideas to read at a reading, especially at an open mic. I'm already pleased about the time limit for this reason.

Rhonda also discussed the plans for the rest of 2006 and it sounds innovative and fun. Feb 14 will be for love and anti-love poetry, for instance. The line up of features sounded good too, including some of my faves: Steven Heighton and Helen Humphreys. Rhonda also handed out a survey to get comments and suggestions for Tree improvements. I suggested a leafier venue (well a cooler one at least). I really loathe the Poison Oak. The service is mostly crappy and slow unless Gerry is the waiter, the food sucks and the basement doubles as a poet-burning oven. I always leave scorched and doughy-eyed.

After a brief break, it was time for the feature. I found it interesting that a few people came for the open mic and then didn't stay for the feature. Jon Paul Fiorentino didn't read long, but what he read was his usual unusual poetry: lots of clever word games and provocative ideas that take more than a beat to understand. That's why I like his stuff. He read a bit from Transcona Highway, which he then gave to a member of the audience. I already have that, but I still found myself salivating with envy. He read from Hello Serotonin and from his newest publication: Theory of The Loser Class, based on Thorstein Veblen's economic opus from 1899, Theory of The Leisure Class. If that sounds a tad zany to you, perhaps it gives you a glimpse of of the creative and esoteric wit of JPF.

He also told a few stories: about meeting his future wife at a gas station, about staying out till 5am with grad students and other fine tales. While his writing is comedic at times, he says he's not really a comedian, so not good at reading comedy. For this reason he didn't read anything from Asthmatica. In my opinion, whle Asthmatica has comedic elements for sure, it is also quite poignant and touching, but I didn't mind that he didn't read from it. After the prose heavy open mic, I was in the mood for poetry. Jon Paul Fiorentino's set was short but memorable. He sets a high standard for the rest of Tree's 2006 features.

The reading was finished by 9:20, which I think is a record for the shortest Tree I've ever been to (climbed on?).

Monday, January 09, 2006

Poetic Desserts last night

Was fun and well-attended and well-cookied. Asoka read lots of Dylan Thomas; John read an anthology of Vehicule Press poets, Ricardo read some of Pablo Neruda's erotic poems from The Captain's Table, first in very sexy Spanish and then in English, Michelle read an Eastern European poet whose name escapes me, Gary read Brecht and Neruda and a bit of Newlove, Charles read Michael Dennis and I read from an anthology of women's poetry called "Claiming The Spirit Within."

Nat broke out into Harry Potter for one brief cockney moment. Asoka read one of his own poems tied into the other poems about Dylan Thomas. We always have at least one rebel ;)

One of the poems that really stood out for me was from the Vehicle Press anthology, Artie Gold's "sex at 31." It was absolutely brilliant.

Steve and Cathy showed up late and Cathy read some Ronnie R. Brown. Alas I didn't have any Ferlinghetti on my shelves, so Steve didn't read. As Ferlighetti wrote: "Sometimes during eternity some guys show up and one of them who shows up real late..." of course he was talking about Joseph, but heh, it kinda fits.

The next Poetic Desserts is Sunday, Feb 5. We've had requests for more truffles but I hate repeating myself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Irving Layton 1912-2006

Irving Layton died today, two months short of his 94th birthday. Sad news. I thought the man would live forever.

Blue and Lovely, My Love

Blue and lovey, my Love,
are the butterflies on your shoulders.
I heard you sing for them
when you were false to everything
including the snapshot of my grandmother
I gave you under the evening star.
They shoveled me into the cold earth
but I heard your singing:
I was ash but I still heard you.
It is no longer you or your voice
that torments me;
It's the blue butterflies looking for me
between the tall grasses
that grow from stilled desire and disdain
as if they were my hands reaching for your face.

Love Poems, Irving Layton, Mosaic Press, 2002
"I'm knocked out by the richness, the resonance, the generosity, the hard intelligence, the clarity, the passion, and above all else, the great, great aching tenderness..." Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Poetic Desserts January 8, 2006

First one of the year at 7:30 pm Sunday. Rumour is we're making cookies.
Contact me if you're interested in attending.