FSG does Robert Pinsky + Paul Muldoon at Russian Samovar

1. Abby Deutsch, Andrew Flynn, Daniel Wenger, and Alexander Fabry. Alex is with Art.sy, the “Pandora for art” start up. 2. Paul Muldoon reads.

One would have been enough. Either Robert Pinsky or Paul Muldoon would have drawn a standing room only crowd to the top floor of the Russian Samovar, but FSG — sticking it to the man who sets fire code — brought both poets on Wednesday night as part of their regular reading series. Every seat was taken early and anyone less than on time (including yours truly) took a leaning post instead. I found a banister, but others found the bar, which was conveniently manned. And because this was the Russian Samovar, the only offering was a dozen-bottle rainbow of infused vodkas.

1. Mark Krotov (right) of FSG with friends Kasia Nikhamina and Ashley Cleek. 2. Megan and Staci, both in TV, both hilarious.

I’m telling you about the vodka because I’m not telling you about Paul Muldoon and I’m not telling you about Paul Muldoon because I may or may not have worshipped him as a god during junior year of college. (This gets real unpithy real fast.) Let’s stick to the facts: Paul Muldoon was there. He has won the Pulitzer and T.S. Eliot prizes for his poetry. He has a terrific Irish voice. He read from an unmarked leather folio, which should be sent to Moleskine with a disparaging Post-it note attached. He read poems like “Hey Rachel,” and “Julius Caesar Was a People Person” that were the things critics have said Muldoon is — complex, skillful, difficult — and also commanding, and also funny.

Robert Pinsky, no less deserving of worship, was also there. He’s down one Pulitzer to Muldoon (although he was nominated), but he is up one U.S. Poet Laureate gig, three years in a row. He, I truly believe, either is or was channeling Robin Williams circa 2002 (Live on Broadway/Robin Williams playing the best version of himself). He called Muldoon’s performance “perturbingly good” and then went on to be the same. He read a collection of poems that included the popular “ABC” (the first letter of each word forms the entire alphabet), and the phonetically hilarious “Improvisation on Yiddish.”

1. Robert Pinsky reads. 2. Lapham’s Quarterly interns Ely Burnstein (left) and Olivia Rosane, with Ryan Langer (center).

The crowd was mixed, but mostly young worshippers like me. Those who weren’t were dutiful Samovar goers or friends of FSG friends. Mark Krotov from FSG played the great uniter, addressing Samovar staff in Russian and friends in English. I inhaled near a couple interns from Lapham’s Quartlerly, who had opted for the horseradish infused vodka. I asked about the IT situation at headquarters and Olivia filled me in: apparently Lewis Lapham eschews anything resembling a computer, but the rest of the staff is conversant in “everything from Tolstoy to Jersey Shore.”

Once the show was over, people left as quickly as they had packed in, leaving clusters of empty shot glasses here there and everywhere.

–Kai Twanmoh is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.

1. Robert Pinsky and a few worshippers deep in conversation. 2. I like this bag.

1. Goodsness. 2. Packed.

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