Distribution Automatique

Sunday, November 20


Gary Sullivan and Jordan Davis report on yesterday's reading at the BPC. Ron Silliman, who read with David Shapiro, blogs about his perfect day in NYC. We can expect a report from Al-Jimzeera shortly, as we noted Jim Behrle's presence at the reading with a video camera-and his call for extras at 4pm yesterday at the BPC for a taping of a coming Jim Behrle show. Gary also supplies a wrap-up of this and last year's seasons curated by him and Nada Gordon. This year the Seque series turned 28. The founder, James Sherry was present, as was the owner and maitre d' of the BPC, Bob Holman. I am not even going to begin a list of the notable poets present- there were too many to list, but I must mention veteran series organizer Charles Borkhuis and poet Stephen Paul Miller, who, by the way, claims to have kicked off the idea of the original Ear Inn reading series that spawned the Segue series. SPM once explained that his idea was to have a series not far from SOHO at the Ear Inn so that people could visit a few galleries and come by to hear a poetry reading afterwards. The first Seque Series was curated by Charles Bernstein and Ted Greewald in 1977. SPM had a copy on hand of his new book *Skinny Eighth Avenue* (March Hawk, 2005), which he signed for me.

You can't blame me for so much nostalgia on the day following such an intensely pleasurable event. A few bloggers went out for dinner afterwards, and I mentioned one of my favorite anecdotes (if you've read this blog for long you are well aware that I've reached my anecdotage). As we left the BPC the dj was playing Led Zeppelin. (The following anecdote is presented here at the request of blogger Katie Degentesh.) I recounted the day in the 70's when I had an extra ticket to a Led Zeppelin concert and ran into Patti Smith on West 8th Street- with whom I had recently given one of my earliest readings on the roof of The Kitchen, curated by Ed Friedman. Patti told me she couldn't accept because she didn't want to upset her boyfriend! Needless to say, it was an amazing concert. Since I am in the mood for telling stories, I might as well mention the time I was leaving a reading (also in the 70's) at the Poetry Project with famed New York school poet Tony Towle. Towle told me that Frank O'Hara had introduced him to his wife and had found him the job that he would keep for his life- a job in the fine arts field. In my case I can credit Ron Silliman with having twice facilitated important directions in my writing life. First, by having included an essay I wrote in his famed anthology, *In The Anerican Tree* (reissued not long ago); and second by encouraging me to start this blog!

Ron read from his book *ABC*. I have my Tuumba Press copy in hand, #376 from an edition of 550 published in 1983 by publisher Lyn Hejinian as Tuumba 46. Ron mentioned in his preamble to his reading that there are 100 lines in this work, with an average of 6.3 words per sentence. ) Ron explained that he created his book Albany, which was recently made available in a complete version by Salt Press, by building each section from each line in the first section of *ABC*. The earlier version of *Albany* was commissioned by a publisher of High School texts, and it was edited. The idea of his recent book was to use each line of the first section of *ABC* as a starting point for remininscences. It is an excellent format and I'm excitedly looking foward to reading it, having heard some terrific work from it at the reading. I love the classic first line of *ABC*: "If the function of writing is to 'express the world.' My father witheld child support, forcing my mother to live with her parents, my brother and I to be raised together in a small room." Ron explained that the idea behind this piece was to "combine the political and the personal" in each of the 100 lines. I was too absorbed in Ron's reading to write down very many lines but some that jumped out at me were: "If it demonstrates form some people won't read it"; "nor is the sky any less constructed";"black is the color of my true love's screen." Ron also included, from from *Albany*, a page-turner type anecdote of his having been stopped by the police during a robbery. Afterwards he told me and Toni about how his house had once been robbed, and he found only one item missing: his CIA file that he had requested be sent to him! He also mentioned having posted on his blog the famous photo of David Shapiro sitting in the president's chair during the Columbia University demonstrations in 1968. More lines from ABC: "Rubin feared McClure would read Ghost Tantras at the teach in"; "Enslavement is permitted as a punishment for crime"; 'I look forward to old age with some excitement"; "A woman on the train asks Angela Davis for an autograph" [wait a minute, didn't Katie tell the story on her blog of seeing someone ask a famous person who had been in prison for an autograph, on the subway-have to ask her about this]; "They call their clubs batons. They call their committees clubs"; "Mastectomies are done by men"; "Talking so much is oppressive"; "If it demonstrates form they won't read it. If it demonstrates mercy they have something worse in mind"; "The design of a department store is intended to leave you fragmented, off-balance"; "The body is a prison, a garden"; "Our home, we were told, had been broken, but who were these people we lived with?" "I just want to make it to lunch time"; "Macho culture of convicts": "The want-ads lie strewn on the table."

David Shapiro and Ron were excellently matched, particularly due to their contrasting reading styles. Ron read extensively-and intensely- from two very related texts, with few interjections. David read from many different books and provided a continuous witty patter-which Toni characterized as "excellent comic timing." I couldn't help scribbling down a number of lines: "Jasper Johns said 'I like David Shapiro's poems- he just writes down what I say'"; "I grew up in New Jersey among communists"; "Meyer Shapiro's favorite word was 'restless'"; "Wallace Stevens is my favorite living poet"; "The stars in the sky- I seem to hear your voice"; "Jerry Lewis went to my high school"; "my father used to say-'Practice early & eat in the garage with the dogs";"I have seen God in dungarees" (from a poem for Joe Ceravolo); "What was there to do- it is said the violins do not sleep"; "we were safe in Texas-in Texas- mostly in love with the earth"; "a girl in Israel once said-'Why be serene?'"; "the snow falls and covers up the word 'poetry'"; "you cannot live your life in quarter tones" At the end of his reading David passed out some copies of his collages.