The International Train from Ridgewood to St. Mark’s

The end of September will follow the thunderstorms of today, or at least Friday will, which can only mean that the autumn armada of readings will push on. Of incredible note, Michael Gizzi—author of over ten books of poetry, Brown University MFA graduate, and highly notable Burning Deck fellow—passed away on September 28. And, as Rimbaud so hates, the world marches on. For the past ten days, per usual, readings series have been actively off and running. Of record, there were two great ones—Poetry Time at SpaceSpace (on Saturday) and the Monday Night series at the Poetry Project, which oversaw the release of the new international magazine VLAK.

Saturday night ushered plenty of poetry-seekers to Ridgewood, Queens (or, what the curators call the “Bushwick/Ridgewood borderlands”) where the Poetry Time at SpaceSpace reading series kicked off its third season of literary performances. SpaceSpace hosts many other neighborhood activities for Bushwick and Ridgewood residents like music, yoga and crafts.

The Poetry Time crowd was pleasant and in ample number, topping out somewhere around fifty—all in one large apartment living room and kitchen!. In usual fashion, there was a garbage can filled to the top with cheap beer, a big ticket raffle for many arbitrary and deliberate (as well as unmentionable) items. Ben Gocker plays host to the series, offering up introductions that act as conceptual alternatives to the rather bland bios-read-straight-through tradition, one in which he cited a review that Gilbert Sorrentino wrote regarding the work of Curtis Jensen, one of the night’s performers. Sorrentino died in 2006 and probably never read Jensen’s work, but hey, he did attend Brooklyn College (as Jensen currently does).

Poetry Time is held at the residence of a handful of folks and all the readings are preceded by video presentations, a few of which have been compiled, produced, and edited by Fence poet Brandon Downing. This time was no different. The selected poets read to the audience while sitting at a desk, their sheets of paper under a green table lamp.  Listeners sat on sleeping bags laid out on the large living room floor. Others stood in the kitchen around an island counter top. Each performer read for an average of twenty minutes (listed below, in order of appearance):

Brandon Downing (video presentation)

Curtis Jensen

Catherine Wagner

Judith Goldman

September 27 kicked off the Poetry Project’s Monday night reading series, hosted and curated by Macgregor Card. Not quite a normal Poetry Project one-off, it was the initial release event for the bi-annually released VLAK magazine, an international journal of poetics and art holding up forts in New York, Prague, and London. The list of the inaugural issue’s contributors is pretty astounding, an intercontinentally-inclined consortium of highly accomplished poets and critics and artists.

As each night’s reader took the stage to deliver a few poems, he or she thanked VLAK’s two attending editors (Louis Armand and Stephan Delbos) for putting together such a lovely artifact, each commenting on how great the issue looked.  Pierre Joris publicly told Armand that the magazine looked better than anything he had been responsible for in his forty years of editing, writing, reading, etc. Eileen Myles took home the unofficial award for getting the audience to laugh loudest, reading from a piece that didn’t completely slam Ron Padgett (who was not in the audience to defend his self) but did highlight the rotisserie of people that St. Mark’s tends to simmer.

Of note, the Poetry Project Newsletter for October and November (#224) has also gone to the printers and become available to the reading public. Pick up a copy.

Listed below are the readers for the first Fall 2010 Monday night series at St. Mark’s, all contributors to VLAK as well:

Louis Armand

Vincent Katz

Abigail Child

Jess Fiorini

Elizabeth Gross

Arlo Quint

Stacy Szymaszek

Eileen Myles

John Wilkinson

Joshua Cohen

Stephanie Strickland

Stephanie Barber

Bruce Andrews

Christine Wertheim

Pierre Joris

Marjorie Welish

Ken L. Walker