Distribution Automatique

Sunday, March 27

The Chicago School of Poetry

A google seach of the above phrase led me to a citation
on Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters
who were active from 1860-1914. I would like to propose
a more recent phenomenon that might be known as
the Chicago School, that includes Elaine Equi, Jerome
Sala, Sharon Mesmer, and Kimberly Lyons. Would welcome
hearing about others: please write me by clicking the
contact box above. I am
quite sure there are many others, and would love to
learn who they might be. Kimberly Lyons* and I got to
discussing this right after Sharon Mesmer's and shortly
before Elaine Equi's readings yesterday afternoon
at the Bowery Poetry Club. It happens that Kimberly
was studying in Chicago around the same time that
Jerome Sala, Elaine Equi and Sharon Mesmer
were writing and performing there. By now you must
surely know that Jerome Sala was challenged to having
the first known performance bout held in a boxing ring,
back in the 70's, certainly one of the earliest if not *the*
first inspirations for what is now known
as Slam Poetry (this will be documented, I learned from
Jerome in a book of interviews on Oral Poetry to be published
by Soft Skull Press, including an interview with him).

Although I am unable to list enough characteristics
right now to definitively elucidate the qualities of a possible
Chicago School of poetry, one of them would certainly be the presence
of sparking, provocative, witty, charming, and not infrequently
hilarious, paradoxical and/or shocking anecdote. Yet these
so-called anecdotes might be better described as parables
or even fables. In Mesmer's performance I am thinking
of one in particular that offers an account of an intimate
relationship in the 70's with the bass player of the Bay
City Rollers. Here, my own descriptive powers fail me.
Like an excellent film, I will be thinking about it for days.
But I will say the following about this reading as
well as Elaine Equi's reading yesterday:
amazing, awesome,breathtaking, brilliant,
fabulous, fantastic, magnificent,
marvelllous, outstanding, sensational, super,
superb, tremendous, wonderful. Got the idea?

I had a few free moments right before the reading to
run over to the St Mark's Book Shop at 31Third
Avenue, near East 10th Street. Fortunately,
this is only a very short walk to the Bowery
Poetry Club, at Bowery near Houston Street,
so the two activities make for a great double
feature. One of the books I purchased was
*The Frequencies: a poem* by Noah Eli Gordon.
from James Meetze's Tougher Disguises Press
in 2003. In the very first poem, Noah Eli Gordon
writes: "It might be adding amnesia to my
watering can, but the saddest thing in the world
is someone's to-do list stuffed in the pocket of
my new thrift-store coat." When I read that line last
night after getting home after the readings, and
after dinner with Jerome and Elaine and after
going to the St Mark's Bookstore a second
time yesterday, I remembered a haunting
poem that Elaine read yesterday which I can't
quote precisely but was dedicated to Joe Brainard
and said something to the extent that one should always
leave something undone on one's to-do list
so that one feels there is always something left
to do. Oh, I wish I had written out the one about
the seasons that went something like: Winter is
fortitude, Spring is longitude, Summer is turpitude,
Fall is gratitude (this is only a paraphrase of sorts,
but it went on beautifully like this for a few rounds).

Elaine Equi {click here}

Coming soon at the Zinc Bar: A book party
for a new book of stories by Sharon Mesmer from
Hanging Loose Press {click here}

Sharon Mesmer {click here}

*This is from Kimberly Lyons' new book *Saline* (Instance Press, 2005):
"At night, with a fever, the smell is of my own tongue,
swollen and of a washrag. Peppermint pink
stripped, it feels alien and particular as though my skin had
detached and was being reapplied in rough strokes by a
hovering woman. She is shushing but I'm not sure who
is making noises or why."
Thanks to Jordan Stempleman (Growing
Nation) {click here}

for writing to us about
The Poetry Center
of Chicago {click here}

Gina Myers was at Elaine's reading

A Sad Day For Sad Birds {click here}