Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, part 2: The Ceremony is About to Begin

The following originally appeared on BillyBlog on October 7, 2006:

I realize in hindsight that the post in part 1 leads off with a photo of a rapt audience at, presumably, a poetry reading. To clarify, at the top of the frame, in silver hair, white shirtsleeves and blue vest, is the poet John Ashbery. The dude in the lower right corner of the photo, alarmingly slouchy, and desperately in need of a haircut (since administered) is the Billy in BillyBlog. Or, as they say in Marseilles, moi.

I bailed on the annual Bay Ridge Ragamuffin Parade a little early and took the train into the city, stopped at work and loaded up with books, then walked to 23rd Street, turned right, and caught the crosstown bus at 8th Avenue. Near the West Side Highway, I disembarked, walked south a block and entered DIA.

Upstairs, the main room where the reading was set up was in a large open space divided by a curtain. I arrived at 3:57. The schedule stated 4:00 - 7:00 PM for the first part of the reading, 7:00 - 8:00 PM for something called "The Typing Explosion", and then 8:00 - 11:00 PM for the second part of the reading.

There were two blocks of sixty chairs, ten rows, twelve chairs across. I sat on the right side, in the second row from the back. I wanted to be in a position that, if a poet left early, I could inconspicuously go after them and get a book or two signed without disruption. It was an excellent strategy.

I had two backpacks with me, one had a few items and the other was loaded down with the bulk of my books. It had wheels and lots of pockets. It was an ideal tote for such an event, The smaller backpack lay on the ground next to the chair, the bigger one perched five feet away, at the endcap of the curtain dividing the reading area with a gallery of some sort. Something was going on over there, but I wasn't sure what.

I jotted notes while waiting:

Not ideal for me, really, the bag is off to the side,
a backpack's nearby

Not sure how this will work, if at all.

Rush to collect items from the office.

Best estimate: 23 items brung, 23 readers within, 53 possible signatures.
Achieving 10 will be a success, I think
Mind you, I have 13 of 19 volumes of the BAP [Best American Poetry Series],
(plus 2 proofs) 11 of which (proofs excluded) I need James
Tate to sign.

at 4:02 (wasn't this to start at 4?), 14 seats are filled

4:05 Deborah Landau arrives, still sparse.
FYI, Deborah Landau is is the Assistant Chair of the Writing Program at the New School, and is usually at the BAP readings, as well as other poetry readings. We sat and chatted a couple years back at a Poetry Society of America (PSA) reading. Whenever she sees me, she looks at me like she remembers me from somewhere but can't figure it out. By the way, in case you think its creepy I have her photo, please note I didn't take this picture, but lifted it from the poet Nick Carbo's public flickr file. You can buy Deborah's book here. Or read her poem "August in West Hollywood," here.

Anyway, I was wondering what was going on, people watching, noticing a few odd fish, especially a couple of women who looked slightly oddly-attired, even for a poetry reading.

Suddenly, as I looked at my watch again. I heard a synchronised clip-clopping. There were three of them, striking young ladies, dressed in bright colors, nylons, looking very retro, walking in line, emphatically in-step, toward the other side of the curtain, where something had been set up, but I had dismissed as another exhibit in the museum. There was a shrill whistle, the scraping of chairs, and a clattering of typewriters. An audience member peered over. I got up and looked over. Behold, the Typing Explosion:

I could describe this experience for you, and I will, but first go here and see a trailer of the Typing Explosion performing. This way, you can experience them as I did, with a sense of bemused interest, then wonderment, and ultimately, awe.

To Be Continued.....

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