Lit Prom Night 2012 — Small Press and Literary Magazine Night at Housing Works SoHo

1. Volunteers Tom MacDonaugh and Katherine “Cookbooks, Mainly” Willis — Student of Science and Marketing Assistant at John Wiley & Sons Publishing — happily posing with Peebers. 2. Guest editor and vocalist Katie Vogel, MerchPersonVolunteer Ann Duensing and Poet Hannah Webster examining the…guest list?

May is a good month, especially if you live in New York City. You get your tax return, the city warms up, it’s Morrissey’s birthday month (22nd, I hope all of you celebrate), and the best part: lit people are still celebrating Literary Magazine and Small Press Month. Ok, it’s really like a year, every year. Last night harlequin creature, Ugly Duckling Presse, and the Agriculture Reader partied with a bunch of us at Housing Works in SoHo with poetry and fiction readings, music from the Relatives and Isaac Gillespie, and free beer. This is all I ever want out of any party.

1. Poet Lecco Morris, who I overheard also has an appreciation for this pencil, admiring the latest harlequin creature. 2. Stella Wilde-via-Katie Vogel.

It’s hard not to feel warm and gooey when you go to a Housing Works event, considering that their money is donated to help end HIV/AIDS. So instead of admission, everyone brought a book or three to donate to Housing Works. I donated Ann Beattie’s Picturing Will, one of her better novels. I got there really early at 6:30, and there was already a crowd. Some huddled around the stage and merch table — which were decorated in several bunches of gorgeous flowers — and others perusing shelves. A little bit later, events coordinator Amanda Bullock announced that the open bar was ready, and encouraged us to drink and continue our nerdy conversations. Beer and nerds always pair well.

Harlequin creature’s gang was up first. They were my favorite in terms of design and execution: each issue is hand-typed (yes, on a typewriter), letter-pressed and hand bound. They’re like the vinyl lover’s ultra-limited limited pressing equivalent for readers and writers. Poet Lecco Morris kicked off the reading with two poems that explored ideas of the unconscious. “Ideas have mothers that haunt them too / They call from the kitchen screen.” Hannah Webster’s poems traveled too, but concerned themselves with individuals inhabiting different personalities. “She becomes … The passer-by road / The casino parking lot.” Katie Vogel, who sings in the Relatives, guest-edited this issue and read the last poem for harlequin creature. Stella Wilde, the poet, was in Germany and unable to make it to the reading.

1. 6×6’s mysterious Abe. 2. Ben: “The Internet is my home / where it’s easy to be beautiful.”

After a brief awkward silence, a dude ran up and grabbed the mic. “I guess it’s 6 x 6’s turn,” he said. 6 x 6 is Ugly Duckling Presse’s poetry chapbook series, which are rectangular, have the upper right corner missing, and usually printed on colored paper. Each issue offers six poets six pages to present their work. Very pretty, very pleasing, and very cool poetry. 6 x 6’s reading was the most mysterious: Abe, the dude, ran up to the mic without telling us his name and mysteriously vanished after the event. I wasn’t put off by it — it seemed to fit way too well with how I feel about UDP. Their books, like their poetry, just seem to arrive from nowhere and no place and command attention and seriousness. “The hotel is in a bad part of town. / You couldn’t say the same about the old well downtown … / Well it’s not exactly old. / It’s exactly five years old.” Abe left and Ben came up, who read from his poem “Fantasy,” which had my favorite lines of the night. “Forever is the saddest word / The poem’s not worth it … I’ve never been to Los Angeles / It’s a cognate of my not knowing.”

1. Editor and novelist Justin Taylor introducing the pretty green Agriculture Reader. 2. Yelena Akhtiorskaya and pigeons.

The Agriculture Reader is green, an annual, and co-edited by novelist Justin Taylor. AR had Yelena Akhtiorskaya read fiction and Karl Larocca read, as Justin Taylor put it, this “other thing.” Akhtiorskaya’s sentences strung themselves together like the oscillating strands of string theory. “If I turn away and squint it looks like a cocker spaniel in her lap. I squint and squint.” Later, a pigeon appears. “After a minute of cooing, he reveals he was injured in a war. ‘Oh, my,’ I said.” Karl Larocca’s “other thing” was a collaboration, sort of, with Herman Melville and his novel Moby Dick. Larocca wrote a computer program that spat out the first words of every sentence in the novel, then he jammed on from there. From “The Pulphead” in Moby Dick: “Methinks hugely mistaken shadow substance.”

1. Karl Larocca jams with Herman Melville. 2. Jackson Connor, a freelance writer at the Village Voice (his story is on the cover this week), with James Dean Fetcho, English teacher student at the Teacher’s College at Columbia. He and I like The Cramps. You should too.

The evening ended with music from the Relatives and Isaac Gillespie, drinking the last of the beer, and buying some books. The presence of small presses and literary magazines increases daily, and it is really, really important that you avail yourself to them. They do really great things, and are the providers of some of the most exciting literature out there. Party on, presses.


Ryan Chang is from Orange County, CA and lives in Brooklyn. He is staff writer for The Outlet, and his fiction and essays have appeared in Art Faccia and Thought Catalog. He is in the internet here and here.

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