All You Need are Writers Reading to Writers Listening to Writers Read To Writers
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1. Host Polly Duff Bresnick raps, rhymes, and tells you where to go to have your nails done.
What happened Friday night in a backyard garden of Prospect Heights was exactly everything you’d expect to happen at a series titled “Writers Reading to Writers Listening to Writers Reading to Writers”. From the light of a single lamp, with a single crack in its shade, four writers read words for the listeners gathered in the backyard of Unnameable Books. Out of their spoken words came stories of drunken Animal Planet viewings, the disappointing aspects of patriotic holidays, an equally disappointing incident with a gang of iPhone thieves, and a dead President’s cross-eyed wife.
Polly Bresnick, host and curator of the three-year-old monthly series, introduced writers not through any list of publishing creds, but intercepted fan mail excerpts. Internet sleuthwork aside, Bresnick’s curatorial ear received its share of gushing admiration throughout the evening. Speaking with attendees before and after the event, it was one of the aspects mentioned most, in addition to the sinking bridge of small rocks leading to our seats and the alfresco dining crowd of a restaurant one backyard over, the secondary audience that was treated to spoken meditations on all the aforementioned topics, as well as one on male urination.
1. “What you ask for matters but the world doesn’t owe you a goddam thing”. That’s Eli Schmitt in perfect “last night of summer” clothing: literary tweed and shorts. 2. The chairs about to be filled with writers listening to writers reading to writers.
So began Eli Schmitt, the first reader of the evening and a first-time (ever!) reader. Playing with prosaic tones, Schmitt drove his poems about love and impossible expectations like an escapee would a stolen truck: fearlessly, with a drunken irreverence that opens to vulnerability seconds before impact. We, the listeners, hummed our own recognitions.
1. Amy Lawless left her potassium iodide at home, but she was cool about it. 2. Some neat people with neat names, called Howard Parsons, Nick Legowski, and Maggie Jones.
Next came Amy Lawless, who proved that you can be somebody even while you’re getting drunk and watching wolves on Animal Planet. In the poem “Barren Wilderness,” Amy transported the reading to something of a tenth-grade science classroom, only instead of hairy-eared troll for a teacher, there was the poet, deadpanning on the likelihood of nuclear attack in our immediate futures: “I don’t have the answers. I’m a poet; I ask the questions.” She poked at the sounds of words til they moved into new words, making her a poet, a science geek, and something of a linguistic acupuncturist. I felt relieved.
1. Adam Robinson: “Infinity,” he said, “is so not happy, it’s long in the face.” 2. That might be a monster next to Amelia Gray. Or a shadow. They’re mostly the same thing, but one of them talks and the other one listens.
Adam Robinson, poet, HTMLGiant contributor and Founding Editor here, had some pains to address himself. He stormed the podium, and I never quite decided whether it was a preacher or a poet whose fluid rants were producing qualities bordering the ecstatic; I guess because I was completely possessed by them. Robinson’s poems traced the sad and lovely edges of the peculiar, with precise notes of hilarious misintent. I didn’t feel bad about laughing.
1. For the goodbye bidding to summer, you must remove your shirt. James Suffern did. John Thorson and Ben Janse were there for support.
Amelia Gray, author of Threats, Museum of the Weird, and a ton of awesomely strange short stories, read next ready for a battle. I could be saying that because her first poem was written from the
perspective of Ulysses S. Grant and evoked a certain pseudo-sobriety, but I don’t think so. Gray also read “The Swan is a Metaphor for Love,” a story forthcoming in Joyland, and trudged us through the forgotten filth and vile pathology of a bird who, as she reminded us, will attack you. And also shit much too close than anyone should be okay with. If you want my advice for going into a reading with Amelia Gray, it’s this: Don’t tap your foot. Don’t move your lips, don’t think about your dog or your dinner, don’t type notes, don’t even laugh while she’s reading, unless you want to miss the creepy, gorgeous, twenty-eyed monsters who live in her language. If you find yourself wanting to get in close to them, it means you know them well.
Afterwards, it was back to the simple pleasures that started the evening. The last few bottles of six-packs and the few hours left of summer. You can style a reading all you want, but all you really need are writers reading to writers, listening to writers, etc. At an event less aware of itself, the straight-up, no-twist approach might have burned going down, but in this case, the buzz stayed strong, and it was totally worth it.
— Karina Briski is a writer, online and in person. She currently lives here, and in Brooklyn.