Even in a summer season of exciting and memorable readings here in the East Bay, the group reading last night on Elizabeth Robinson's backyard stage was a standout.The ample crowd, filled every available spot to sit on Elizabeth R's ample deck, included luminaries Cassie Lewis, Taylor Brady, Laynie Browne, Toni Simon, Clive ("Batson")Worsley, Patrick Durgin and his companion Andrea, and, I think, Mary Burger and many others, if not already known, hopefully soon to be known to me. Great food, lots of good things to drink, totally pleasant conversation (ok, one gaffe by Nick: when I used the word "teamwork" when talking with Stephanie she literally flipped her plate of rice noodles into the air- I was chucking about this on an off all day today- somehow I ALWAYS seem to say or do clumsy things around our Ms Young!).
The first reader with Karl Gartung. (Significantly, Toni ran into Karl G with his partner, today in SF!). Karl's work incudes a kind of hypnotic repetition I started to find mesmerizing:
The mental perception
conditions at a distance
following one another
or conecptual form
in temporal succession
(This does not capture the lovely way the verses are layed out side by side on the page so they can be read crosswise or up and down).
Karl's work has a strong mystical evocation and the language harmonizes well with such overtones.
David Habawnik's presentation included his singing some numbers -with a lively partner- from his musical about two gay baseball players in love.The audience was given scripts so they could sing along, and they did:
we hurt a little more than we say
we say a little more than we know
they charge a little more than we pay
so we pay a littleless than we owe"
Stephanie Young's reading was a revelation for me. First of all, she read in the dark with a flashlight. This added to the seraphim-like, revelatøry qualities of her reading last evening. She happened to include my all time favorite Stephanie poem: "STARTING TODAY I VOW TO ALLOW LOVING EXPERIENCE INTO MY LIFE."(this is a paraphrase as I couldn't bring along the well thumbed manuscript:"Telling The Future Off.") Stephanie also read from a new powerful group of sonnets- there is a Ted Berrigan aspect to Stephanie and Cassie's work that fascinates me, as Berrigan was my first workshop teacher (by the way Stephanie also admires the work of my second and very influential workshop teacher Bernadette Mayer). (Cassie and I talked at length last Sunday after the Oxygen bar Postcard Poem reading about Berrigan's strong influence on a certain group off contemporary Australian poets). Stephanie's work abounds in paradox, but exudes an exhilirating affirmative inspirational quality which may be the secret elixir behind that explosive new mix being addressed as The New Brutalism. I can't wait to see Stephanie's upcoming book from Tougher Disguises! Go Stephanie!