Browning & Svalina at The Poetry Project

Brett Price curated what many referred to as a homecoming for Sommer Browning and Mathias Svalina on Friday, March 11 at The Poetry Project.

While living in Brooklyn, Browning was an integral part of the poetry world by curating and hosting Pete’s Candy Store, serving as one of the poetry editors for The Portable Boog City Reader and an editor (along with Tony Mancus) of Flying Guillotine Press, which she still edits.

During Svalina’s tenure in Brooklyn, he co-curated Yardmeter Editions Reading Series, served as poetry editor for Boog City and co-edited (with Zach Schomburg) Octopus Books and magazine. He still edits both. Since Svalina’s departure, this was his first return to New York, and Browning’s second. Attendees brought wine and beer, and even a bottle of absinthe made an appearance, with Brandon Downing working the sugar spoon to perfection.

A little after 10:30, the lights dimmed and the readings began.  Below are the set-lists for Browning and then Svalina.

Sommer Browning took the stage and distributed postcards which contain a cartoon drawing of a person playing  guitar. She said the card was her first poem, titled, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Here’s what followed:

1. Sideshow
2. Death Defying
3. When Christopher Died
4. Either Way I’m Celebrating
5. It Isn’t Dead Just Different
6. the comic on page 88 of her book, Either Way I’m Celebrating
7. I’m Sorry I Ate That (title of another comic from the book)
8. Acts of Misinterpreted Surrender
9. A Kind of Chosen Birthday with No Known Pianist
10. The Movies
11. Alive with a finger (comic)
12. Still life
13. The Opposite of Love
14.The Meat from the Dream the Heart Knows
15. Feel Better

At this point Browning attempted to leave the stage, but the audience wasn’t having it and begged for an encore. She read two more poems.

1. “Notes About Art Pepper”
2. “Officer and Gentleman”

After a brief intermission, Svalina took the stage and read poems from his book, destruction myth, as well as a series of new poems about spells. He opened his reading by reading a poem for and by Bill Cassidy who passed away earlier in the year.  More on Cassidy here and here. Here’s the rest of Svalina’s set-list:

1. “Creation Myth”
2. -first line, “In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird
3. ” ” -first line, “In the beginning there was a book”
4. ” ” -first line, ” He set the first fire as a joke”
5. ” ” -first line, ” In the beginning there was a pen that drew itself into existence & then drew all the”
6. A Spell Against a Dropping of Things
7. A Spell Against Distances
8. A Spell Against Sickness

from “Creation Myth”

1. first line, ” In the beginning there was a big puddle of honey”
2. Sickness is my Meat
3. first line, “In the beginning I was a little thing in the center of a star.”
4. A Spell Against Unlocked Door
5. A Spell Against Human Fraility
6. The Hypothesis of Death
7. first line, “In the beginning the registar”
8. first line, ” In the beginning everything I said exploded.”
9. first line, “My mother & father are both chemists.”
10. A Spell Against Ownership
11. Destruction Myth


-steven karl

photos & video Hitomi Yoshio