Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, Introduction

The series "The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan," was originally conceived as a multi-section recounting of my experience with the 2006 Poetry Bus Tour, as it stopped in Manhattan on September 30, 2006.

It follows as planned below, in multiple segments. As of my composition of this introduction, only four of the segments have been posted, although three more were written. In order to spare the BillyBlog loyal of any prolonged tedious exposure to poetry, I have reorganized the posts onto this date.

I hope that individuals reading these posts appreciate the effort that went into them.

In other words, most of you may want to skip September 30.

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, Part 1: Before the Reading

The following originally appeared on BillyBlog on October 5, 2006.

Well, BillyBlog has a new look, and here comes a doozy of a post. This will most likely occur over the course of several days. If you like my poetry event posts, you're in for a treat. If not, you can relax and skip ahead to more banal subjects down the line.

Last Saturday, September 30, when my younger daughter was scoring her first goal ever in her soccer career, I was busy throwing away my chances of "Father of the Year" honors by attending a poetry reading instead.

But not just any poetry reading. This event was part of a nationwide poetry phenomenon: the Poetry Bus.

According to their website,

Stopping at 50 cities in 50 days the 2006 Poetry Bus Tour, sponsored by Seattle-based independent press Wave Books, is the biggest literary event of 2006 and the most ambitious poetry tour ever attempted.

Beginning September 4 and ending October 27, the bus tour will visit a variety of venues, including the Space Needle in Seattle, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, the Museum of Natural History in LA, the Green Mill in Chicago, the Dia Arts Center in New York, and a number of bookstores, galleries, bars, prisons and schools all across the US and Canada.

Day 27 of the tour coincided with the Poetry Bus' rendez-vous with the Big Apple, at the Dia Center for the Arts on West 22nd Street in Manhattan.

It was a monster reading with 2 dozen poets and something called The Typing Explosion. I had begrudgingly bailed on the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival, an every-two-years event that has been equated with "poetry heaven". I had attended in 1998


and 2004. This year, the lineup was good, but not astoundingly awesome, and the cost has gone up ($30 for a Saturday pass, plus $18 round trip for a bus from Port Authority). Two years ago, I rented a car, not just for quick travel, but for trunk space. More space, more books. It's a debilitating sickness.

So I opted for the Dia event, at a $5 donation fee, and saved a bundle of money and still heard some great poetry.

To Be Continued....

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.....

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, part 3: The Typing Explosion

The following post originally appeared on October 10, 2006:

So now you have probably caught up on the Typing Explosion (see this post here). Let me elaborate some more. If this is boring to any of you, my apologies, but I have to do it, for posterity.

The Typing Explosion explained itself to the crowd via a transparency projected on a screen. I had the time so I copied the rules down.

The Typing Explosion
TEU Local 898

Rules of Participation

1. Choose a TITLE from those provided in the card catalog or write your own using a blank note card and the typewriter above. (Each title is original and no title will be used twice).
2. Place $1 in canister (one dollar per poem, please).
3. Hand your title card to the first typist who is next to the card catalog.
4. Your title will head the page and your poem will be IN PROGRESS. IMPORTANT: PLEASE MOVE with your poem as it passes between the typists.
5. When the horns indicate your poem’s completion, proceed directly to the third typist.
6. After receiving is official documentation and you have signed for verification of receipt, your ORIGINAL poem of the Typing Explosion will be given to you to keep.
7. Begin at any time.

Rules of Conduct

1. Do not talk to Typists.
2. Do not touch Typists.
3. Please stand a minimum of one foot away from the Typists while the poem is in progress.
4. Do not use vulgar or otherwise offensive language near or around said typists.
5. Sorry, there is no money-back guarantee.
6. No biting.
7. No shoving.
8. No spitting.
9. No horseplay.
10. Participation is not mandatory.
11. Typists reserve the right to begin and end each poem as they see fit.
12. Typists are entitled to a designated UNION BREAK as signaled by the sound of the whistle.
13. If behavior is not in compliance with these codes of conduct, your poem will be deemed void and duly shredded.

Well, so of course I had to participate. For only a buck, why not? I perused the titles in the catalog and, while some were good, I came up with one better and/or more appropriate. The following poem is scanned in. Rather than typing it in here, I thought it would be better to give the visual, from the different type from the three typewriters, to the stamp used for verification and approval. Click on the image to enlarge.

Without further ado, here's the Typing Explosion's poem "Billy's Blog":

If you're having trouble reading this, click on the image to enlarge. Then, click again for the up-close effect.

If for some reason you can't see it, here's the text, without the x'ed out typos.

Reader Beware, F-Word Ahead:

Billy's Blog

read mostly by

street kids in Japan

and housewives in Canada.

billy is keeping track of his constituency

When he is hanging upside down in the mildewy basement

pretending he is Batman, and his wife screams down the dark stairs:

Dear So Long Sad Song . . .

Really what? Really WHO? Really WHY?

but and really when ?

It was once said,

"I don't believe in blogs, I just believe in me."

But now,

wouldn't you agree?

every fucking day i'm writing this thing.

are you getting this?

Snap your incissors at me,

all alone in the quavery glow

of Mountain Dew and


(To Be Continued.)

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, Part 4: The Reading Begins

This post originally appeared on BillyBlog on October 12: 2006:

I have experienced the Typing Explosion. Around 4:45, they ring some bells, sound some horns and put up a "Union Break" sign over the transparency that listed the rules. I return to my seat. There is much commingling.

At 5:07, John Ashbery arrives. He sits in the row behind me. This is torture for me because I generally frown upon/am reluctant to approaching writers before readings to ask for their signatures. It's almost an unwritten rule, although I have done it before and never been called out on it, but still.

Tonight worries me. I anticipate that many poets, because of the length of the event, will vanish during the reading. I hardly expect someone with the stature of John Ashbery to remain throughout. I have eight items that Ashbery could sign for me, but one in particular is a do-or-die item for me. It is a hardcover first edition of his Selected Poems. This copy, in particular, is special in that it belonged to the Canadian poet Douglas LePan, and bears his "owner's inscription" on the front endpaper. I have been wanting to get this signed for a year or two, since my friend Brian in Toronto sent me the book as a gift.

By 5:13, the reading hasn't started yet. I am filled with nervous energy as I pull the book out, and head over to Ashbery. I squat next text to him and ask, "Mr. Ashbery, would you be so kind as to sign this for me before the reading starts?" He complied genially. I thanked him and returned to my seat. The aforementioned Brian of Toronto was a tad disappointed that I only brought one thing over to Ashbery (he would have gone for broke), but I hoped to catch him during the first break, and the Selected Poems was such a coup, I was content to settle for that one signature at that point in the evening.

The reading kicked off shortly thereafter, as "Day 27 of the Poetry Bus Tour" took off. First, the three ladies of the Typing Explosion read a poem they had composed, donated from one of the audience members. Meanwhile, all the other poems, including "Billy's Blog" had been clipped to a clothes line in the space to the right of the reading. The way they read was fantastic. One Typist faced the microphone and covered her eyes, the poem was held up behind her head and the other two Typists, on either side of the reader, whispered the poem into her ears. She then read the poem filtered in this fashion. It was very cool.

Then, they switched, and the second Typist recited the same poem, in her own translation, with a mock-German accent. And finally, the third Typist did the same, only her poem was sung, a Capella.

Thunderous applause.

John Ashbery took the stage, acknowledged that it was "a hard act to follow," and then read five poems, many of which would be appearing in an upcoming book, A Worldly Country: New Poems (click to pre-order) coming out in February 2007.

The first poem was called "Promenade," pronounced prah-men-odd or prah-men-aid, "I haven't yet decided," he quipped.

Next was "A Litmus Tale," in which he referred to "the dishevelled frankness we all inhabit". Very Ashbery. This was followed by "So Long, Santa," then one called either "Forward," or "Forwarding." He ended with a pantoum (a poetic form detailed here) called "Fantoum." Alas, none of these poems appear to be online anywhere, but I scribbled some lines from "Fantoum": "why his business was for sale," "Nursery of goats," and "purple emu laid another egg." Ashbery was typically complex and brilliantly inaccessible, why people who don't like poetry are reminded why they don't like poetry, and why people who love it, are reminded why Ashbery is the patron saint of difficult verse.

Ashbery was followed by Albert Mobilio, who read "What the Great Ones Do," and "I First Read."

After Mobilio came Mary Jo Bang (right), who read some poems in an alphabetical sequence: "A as in Alice," "B is for Beckon" and "S is for South Park."

She was followed by Joshua Beckman, who read two untitled poems and a third called "Death Lasts," which included the hilarious line, "I saw the best minds of my generation living in lofts, thinking they were the best minds of my generation."

Next up was Timothy Donnelly, who read "A Malady That Took Place of Thinking," "The Last Vibrations," "A Team of Fake Deities Arranged on an Orange Plate," and "The New Intelligence," which is excerpted here on a blog called Cahiers de Corey.

Thomas Sayers Ellis was next to read. He piques some interest at the beginning of his reading by saying that he had never met John Ashbery before and that he had not heard him read before, so that when he refers to Mr. Ashbery in one of his poems, he "does not mean to offend." He read three pieces: "Or," which is in this month's issue of Poetry and can be read here on a blog called The Virtual World. Next, he read "No Easy Task," which the writer Erica Tempesta, in an article in
The Oberlin Review, said questions "the obligation of poets of color to communities of color." It was in this poem that he uttered the line about Ashbery that he alluded to at the beginning of the reading:

"Bling Bling has more imagery
than all of Ashbery."
In the same article, she also refers to Ellis' final poem, "All Their Stanzas Look Alike," and how that piece "calls into the spotlight the whiteness of the American literary tradition and wrestles with the idea of where a black man educated in that tradition stands in relation to American poetry and popular culture." I recommend the poem, which can be read here.

Thomas Sayers Ellis' reading was definitely the most memorable and passionate at this point in the evening.

The next poet, Larry Fagin, read some limericks, all untitled. That's him in the plaid shirt (that's critic Bill Berkson in the scarf).

Monica Fambrough was next. She read four poems. Two of them, "Pastoral" and "Les Femmes, Les Fleurs," can be read online here. She also read a poem called "Quill," I think, or it might have been "Prell, " here. And then she finished with "Ode to the Good High Schoolers," which you can actually hear her read on a link on the blog Weird Deer, here.

It was during her reading, at 6:10 PM when my heart sank as I looked over my right shoulder and saw John Ashbery slipping out of the room. Well, at least I had one of his books signed, and there was still a lot of poetry to go.

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, part 5: Entering Intermission

The following is a continuation of this post here.

Now. Where were we? Ah yes, Monica Fambrough has read, Ashbery has departed, and the night is still young.

Nick Flynn was next on the list, but he had not yet arrived. John Godfrey read instead. I barely remember him (no offense, sir, if you googled yourself, and stumbled here). He read the following poems: "With Fictions," "City of Corners," "Comes with Galore," "Ladder in One Hand," "Waltz of the Drakes," "Through the Wall," and "Four Wings." Titles are as accurate as I could decipher them to be. No sign of any of them on the web.

Next we had Christian Hawkey. Hawkey (left) read four poems: "Water in the Ear," one whose title I missed, "Report from the Undersecretary of Inquests," and "Threat Advisory Elevated."

After Hawkey came Major Jackson (right). View his web page here.
He read four poems: "You Are Almost Invisible in All This Plain Decay" (which is excerpted in a review here), "Maddeningly Elusive, Yet Endlessly Tempting," "North of Diamond Lake, the Cascades, Crossmarks," and a last section of "Letter to Brooks: Spring Garden," reprinted here on the Poetry magazine website.

Next up was Noelle Kocot (left), with four poems, three of which you can peruse on line: "Bus Tour Poem," "Sestina for Lizzette," "Postlude," and "Positive Monsters."

Jon Woodward (right) ended the first half of the reading at 6:45 PM with a bunch of untitled pieces.

With the first half of the reading ending, the Typing Explosion resumed its activities. The reading was estimated to resume around 8:00 PM. I scurried about trying to get autographs for my books, but many of the poets disappeared, presumably to grab a bite to eat, and hopefully not to go home. I had my Ashbery signature, but only managed to grab four more signatures: 2 from Mary Jo Bang in the Best American Poetry (BAP) volumes 2001 and 2004, 2 from Thomas Sayers Ellis in BAP '97 and BAP '01, one from Major Jackson in BAP '04, Noelle Kocot in BAP '01, and Timothy Donnelly in a book called Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website.

I've had this anthology for over a year and never had endeavored to get it signed. I mean, it has 366 poems in it with almost as many poets. However, this reading featured several individuals that were not in any of my other anthologies. So, as long as I was going to be there, I might as well include some new people in the anthological madness.

It's a cool book. Buy it here.

Anyway, I was halfway through the evening, and it only took 5 posts to tell you about it. Stay tuned for parts 6 and 7.

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, Part 6: More Typing, More Signing, More More More

We last saw our hero at the intermission of the Poetry Bus Tour stop at the Dia Center for the Arts on the West Side of the island of Manhattan.

Scroll back through BillyBlog if you need a refresher course on what transpired between 4:00 PM and 6:45 PM on the afternoon/evening of September 30, 2006.

We re-enter the scene with yours truly standing in line for a second go with the Typing Explosion.

This one, also scanned below, wasn't as good, but may still be interesting.

tastes like chicken

or shark

or dormouse

you are a delicacy

wrapped in layer after buttery layer

of pastry.

flakes floating gently

upon my chest and chin.

eat it!

Not on the menu

it came in through the back door at
5 a.m. on Fridays and they served it just the sam e...

What kind of fake maple syrup flavoring

is this place?

When I said PANCAKE I meant:


Cast iron, all the better to bop you over the head with.

it was a dance

not unknown to me.

i was simply observing for my studies.

there is no accounting for taste.

There is no accounting for eggs. Lick the calculator. Beep. Cheep. Cheep

Ok, so that was that.

I sat down and looked at my poem. I had come up with the title again but now wondered if I should have let the Typing Explosion work with one of their own titles from the card catalog. Oh well, live and learn.

The I heard the funniest line of the evening, uttered in conversation by one of the Poetry Bus poets: "Amanda Peet's getting married next door--so they need us to back the bus up about five feet."

In my wanderings during intermission, I discovered some troubling news, several of the advertised poets, including a major writer, James Tate, were not on the schedule to read. I had 5 Best American Poetry (BAP) volumes exclusively for Tate, as well as 7 other anthologies that I could have had him sign. Now, I didn't think I'd get them all signed, but I was hoping for just one, at the very least. Also, the poets Marie Howe and Ann Lauterbach were also off the list.

At 8:00 P.M., the reading was scheduled to resume, but there were still very few people present.

Poets from the second half started trickling in. Vijay Seshadri was among the first. I had missed getting Vijay to sign my books at the Best American Poetry reading, so I went up to him and had him sign the '03 and '06 volumes.

He seemed to recognize me from a previous event or two and asked, "You're a writer, too, no?" Of course I had to acknowledge this, although rather modestly. I am often asked by poets at readings if I'm a poet as well. It's always difficult for me to say I am, even though I am, especially when asked by a poet I admire and respect. It's that feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that many of us have, especially if we do not have the credentials to back it up. Between June 1993 and August 1998, I had perhaps 50 poems accepted for publication in small magazines and journals in the U.S. and Canada. As impressive as that may sound, if you rattle off the names of the publications, none are "household names" in established poetry circles. Some that were accepted never saw print, or the magazine vanished, or they were ultimately published and I never saw a copy in print. Maybe three of the two dozen publications are still active. Maybe. The small mag game is a fleeting one.

So, asking someone at a poetry reading if they're a poet is like asking someone in L.A. if they're working on a screenplay. After a while, you stop volunteering that information.

Anyway, I approached Vijay Seshadri, asked him to sign my books, and we
chatted briefly about a reading he had done at a nearby gallery, in a collaborative effort to interpret found pieces, like graffiti and other anonymous writings in the public eye. I think he mentioned that this was done in collabortion with the media artist Kenny Goldstein, but my facts may not be 100% straight on this matter. I am having trouble finding supporting information on the web. We also talked about the Typing Explosion and how there is so much interesting, experimental poetry being performed nowadays.

Twenty minutes later, the reading had still not resumed, but the place was filling up. I was able to grab Christian Hawkey (who had read earlier) to sign his poem in my BAP '06 and approached the yet-to-read Eileen Myles and had her sign my BAP '02 and BAP '04.

Shortly thereafter, the second part of the readin progressed, with a similar performance by The Typing Explosion (only this time, poet #2 read with a French, not German, accent). Then, the reading resumed in earnest.

To be continued.....

The Poetry Bus Hits Manhattan, Part 7: That's All, Folks!

The Poetry Bus Tour reading at Dia resumed with Nick Flynn, who had missed his ealier scheduled spot in the first half. He read excerpts from a play he had written called "Alice Invents a Little Game And Alice Always Wins." He mentions it in this interview here. He also read a poem called "Jesus Nude".

Next up was Gregor Podlogar, a Slovenian poet who offered up "The Darker Side of New York," and "Videotape."

David Lehman (below), the editor of the Best American Poetry (BAP) series followed. He read four poems, "Essay on Criticism," "God Will Provide," "Poem in the Lusty Manner," and "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning."

Lehman left shortly after completing his reading, leaving me with 4 items unsigned.

Cate Marvin was next. She read her poem "Muckraker."

She was followed by Tracie Morris, a fine performance/spoken word poet. She performed two pieces, "From Slave Sho to Video," and "My Great Grand Aunt Meets a Bush Supporter," (a performance of which can be heard by clicking here). You can see one of her performances here, hear her performing her poem "Chain Gang" here, and if you like what you hear, there is a whole slew of audio on this site here. Ms. Morris was a late addition to the list of performing poets, and I wish I'd had known she would be in attendance, as I would have had a couple of items for her to sign. She is a Poetry Slam grand champion and in several spoken word anthologies.

Ms. Morris was followed by Eileen Myles. She read "No Excuse," "Cute Number One," and "Questions".

Here is video from the night's reading, of Eileen Myles performing "No Excuse":

Matthew Rohrer read next. His poems were "Mandrake," "Disquisition on Trees," and "Morning Glory on the Roof." I haven't reprinted many of the poems I heard here, but have provided links. I will however, share the full poem, without permission, "Morning Glory on the Roof":

You have already noted the girlish beauty
of the Morning Glory,
the delicate lavender panties.
Looking around you,
as far as you can see,
plants are imprisoned.
Each morning Morning
Glories open upstairs,
out of sight.
Each night the concrete lies
like a hot compress on the dirt.
Thank you for your brief attention.

Rohrer was followed by Vijay Seshadri. He read "Memoir," which I recognized as his entry in BAP '06. He also read "This Morning," and "Guide for the Perplexed," which was the second poem he had read at the BAP '06 reading on September 21.

Next up was Brenda Shaughnessy, who provided one of my favorite segments of the evening. She was one of the few poets I heard that was new and refreshing to me.

She read "I'm Over the Moon," "Moth Death on the Window Sill," and "White is the Color of Snow." The moon poem was great and featured the simile, "like having a bad boyfriend in a good band." Alas, I cannot find these poems on the web, but you can read four others here.

Evie Shockley followed, with three poems. I didn't catch the title from the first, the second was called "The Last Temptation," and the last was "dedicated to the people of New Orleans," and was called "Atlantis Made Easy."

Ms. Shockley was followed by a performance poet, Edwin Torres, who reminded me physically of the novelist T.C. Boyle. That's Torres on the left, Boyle on the right.
Torres performed a couple of pieces rather theatrically. For a better sense of his style, listen to this reading he did here.

Next was Catherine Wagner. She read "I'm Total I'm All I'm Absorbed in This Meatcake," which you can also hear here, "Scary Several Light," audible here. Worth a listen. And she finished with "Everyone in the room is a representative of the world at large".

The next reader was Lewis Warsh, who I had seen at a BAP reading in 2003, but failed to get signatures from. I had seen him mulling about before the reading and recognized him from the prior event. He read for a while, reading multiple segments of his long poem "Sorcerer."

Next was Rebecca Wolff. She read an "occasional poem about my uncle's death about a month ago." It was very raw and went on a little too long, especially as the audience could see the light at the end of the tunnel. During her reading I noticed Lewis Warsh putting on his jacket. He was signalling subtly that he was going to leave early. I had three BAP's for him and I was determined not to let him get out without signing them. I kept my eye on him.

Matthew Zapruder was the penultimate poet, indicating to me that the great John Yau, who was on the schedule, was not going to be appearing after all. Bummer. Zapruder read "Ancient Sorrows Sleep Already" and something like "Ondelay Mano" about a font type. I prbably botched that spelling. When Zapruder started, I stood up with the three books I had for Warsh to sign, and moved toward the door. I turned around to hear the reading and Warsh had stood as well, and was prepped to leave. When Zapruder ended, Warsh headed for the door, but I was waiting for him. He signed the three editions I had during the last poet's reading.

Sorry, Rachel Zucker, I missed it all.

Well, gentle readers, thanks for bearing with me on this marathon recap. After the reading, I was a signature accumulation machine, getting four more poets to sign my Poetry Daily anthology (thanks Nick Flynn, Major Jackson, Matthew Rohrer, and Evie Shockley!). I also got more BAP autographs from Brenda Shaughnessy ('00), Edwin Torres ('04) and Rachel Zucker ('01). After the dust cleared, I had 23 signatures from 16 poets in 9 books. Not bad for an evening's work. And, more importantly, I had a night full of poetry.

Again, I apologize to those regular readers who may have found this 7-part recap too lengthy. I tried to spread it out over time to ease the ennui. However, I am first and foremost committed to recording my experience for myself and for the few people out there who may find use of this narrative in the future.

If you want a different perspective, the Poetry Bus blog recalls this event here. There are photos!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fishbone is Red Hot!

Well, I'm getting a little too old for this. After only three hours of sleep, I'm throwing y'all a little update from the show last night at CBGB's. It was my first and last show at that venue, as the birthplace of the American punk scene appears to be set to close in a couple of weeks.

I even got to experience CBGB's famous bathroom on more than one occasion.

We were treated to a marathon show last night by the likes of the Rodney Speed Experience, Outernational, the Dub Trio, and perennial favorites Fishbone.

There were cameras galore (mine stayed home) so I don't have any images, still or moving, from last night's show, but I will post here when I can track some down (posted some on October 7).

The Rodney Speed Experience, led by "longtime CBGB/Wetlands employee Rodney Speed," started things off with a string of cover songs, around 8:45 PM. His 45-minute set included smoking versions of "Let's Go Live" (Iggy Pop), "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (The Clash), "Get a Haircut" (George Thorogood), "The Last Time," (The Rolling Stones), and "Wild Thing" (Jimi Hendrix Experience a la Monterey Pop).

Next came Outernational, best described as an intriguing mix of ska/hip-hop/funk (until someone corrects me), were quite good. Check out their MySpace page here, which even has a few free downloads.

Most intriguing guy in the band, in my opinion, is the gent in the center, Sonny Suchdev, who is responsible for, among other things, trumpet, vocals, dhol, bongos, and minimum tek - guitar.

Added October 7, 2006: This YouTube clip features the end of the Outernational set, with the lead singer ranting against the current political regime. The quality is sub-par, but you get a nice visual feel of being inside CBGB's:

At 10:45, the band Dub Trio took the stage. Their MySpace page is here. Listen to some of their tunes. These guys rocked hard, mixing rock, punk, and dub. At more than one point in their set, my draw dropped at how fast D.P. Holmes' was playing his guitar. I cannot think of anyone I've ever seen play faster, there were times his hand was a literal blur.

Despite the lack of any vocals, they still rocked hard and were a great warm up.

And last but not least, we had Fishbone. Their lead singer, Angelo Moore, who also performs Spoken Word under the name Dr. Madd Vibe was on stage a little before midnight as the septet tuned up. Fishbone rose in the early '80s L.A. funk-ska scene with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Firehose. They have undergone numerous personnel changes over the last few decades, but Angelo still is the heart and soul of the band,

along with Norwood Fisher, bassist/vocalist.

Let me just say, the show was insane. CBGB's was much smaller and more intimate than I expected. The stage was tiny and the space was cramped, but that didn't prevent a slew of moshing, crowd-surfing, stage-diving, and general rowdiness.

I don't have a setlist at my disposal, but I can confirm they opened with "Sunless Saturday," and played all their best songs, including "Everyday Sunshine," "Ma and Pa," "Hide Behind My Glasses," "Alcoholic," "Lyin' Ass Bitch," the Sublime cover "Date Rape," and "Party at Ground Zero." They also played some material off of their upcoming release Still Stuck in Your Throat, which has an October release date in Europe, but does not yet have an American release date.

New songs included the let's-all-get-along anthem "Party with Sadaam," "Let Dem Hoes Fight" (a seemingly fond Jerry Springeresque song), and "Skank n' Go Nutts."

Angelo borrowed an audience member's glasses for "Hide Behind My Glasses":

and cranked on sax:

At 1:40 AM today, Fishbone left the stage. After a few minutes of chanting "Fishbone is Red Hot [clap, clap] Fishbone is Red Hot [clap, clap]," the audience was rewarded with twenty more minutes of blistering music, with the tracks "Unyielding Conditioning," the aforementioned "Skank n' Go Nutts," and a bringing-the-house down version of "Ugly,".

All in all, 'twas an amazing show, and one I will always remember. This was the third time I have seen Fishbone. I saw them previously at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip in the early '90s and on July 8, 2000 in Central Park.

If you ever have a chance to see this band live, do so.

For music samples and more, lead singer Angelo's Madd Vibe MySpace page is here, complete with samples/downloads. Fishbone's is here.