Friday, March 28, 2008

Catching Up on the Blog 5: Flarf

A week ago today a group of Flarfists that included Gary Sullivan, Nada Gordon, Mel Nichols and Rod Smith gave a reading at Big Orbit Gallery. As it was on the eve of the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, attendance was high - probably near 50 at the peak. It was a fun reading. I think what makes Flarf effective is its complete rejection of poetic decorum when it comes to vocabulary and subject matter. Words like "pooner," "pussy," and "fart" float freely alongside "love," "longing" and "languorous," while poems about Grandma's labia bump up against quotations by Marianne Moore without ever acknowledging a difference in kind. A kind of ecstatic freedom defines the flarf reading, the constant pleasure of surprise, of not ever knowing what to expect and dying to find out. Going home to read Farfist texts I'd been given -- Gordon's Folly, Sullivan's PPL in a Depot, and K. Silem Mohammed's Breathalyzer -- reveals all is not fun and games. In a pleasing counterpoint to the irreverence and downright silliness of Flarf vocabulary and content, one finds on the page poems that are extremely well put-together --or dare I say, crafted. Some even use rhyme and meter to unique and interesting effect. Anyhow, it was great to hear and an equal pleasure to read. I look forward to more of it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Catching Up on the Blog 4: Roberto Tejada and Francisco Aragón

Roberto Tejada
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
In between taking the Walcotts to the museum and the big event itself, I managed to sneak over to Buffalo State College for a reading by Roberto Tejada and Francisco Aragón. Roberto I've known since our days in grad school together, but I had never heard (of) Francisco. Both read translations from the Spanish alongside their own work. It's great to get a chance to hear translations read aloud. So few poets, at least the ones I get to see, do any translation, much less read it aloud at their readings. I especially liked Roberto's translations. He read one of a piece by Lezama Lima and another by a Peruvean woman poet from the seventies, whose name I forget -- they were a great contrast -- one baroque and expansive, the other terse and intense. They really showed the kind of range RT is capable of in his work. I had to run out at the end to go to the next event, but was happy I made it to this one.

Catching Up on the Blog 3: Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott read in Just Buffalo's Babel series last night. About 750 showed up to hear it. During the day I took him and his wife Sigrid out for lunch at the aptly named "muse," the in-house restaurant at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

The two of them are pleasant pair of polar opposites. She is quite warm and outgoing, while he is quiet, introspective, with a rather mischievous sense of humor. When I told the waitress I'd take water with my meal, he told me (jokingly) he thought people who ordered water at lunch were very "affected." I asked what we were trying to affect, to which he replied, "simplicity, honesty, wholesomeness." We spent much of the meal parsing Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Barack Obama. We then took a stroll through the permanent collection. Sigrid spent most of her time looking at Clyford Sill and Mark Rothko. He apparently is not a big fan of abstract expressionism nor of Milton Avery (see picture), but quite enjoyed looking at a pointilist effort by Pisarro.

At the event, I announced next year's line-up of writers to the assembled crowd. When I announced the first name, Chinua Achebe, I woman on the left half of the room shrieked with joy. When I announced Michael Ondaatje, someone on the other side of the room did the same. When I mentioned Marjane Satrapi, the crowd went quiet, until I mentioned "Persepolis'" Oscar nomination, which inspired hundreds of heads to nod in recognition. When I said, Isabel Allende, the whole crowd burst into applause. Hopefully that will translate into lots of subscriptions for next season!

After I introduced him, Walcott read from his Selected Poems. He's a great reader -- deep voice, not too performative, but with a great ability to use his voice to deepen the resonances of his poems' already impeccable rhythms. He didn't talk very much between poems, but was generally very witty and engaging when he did. Afterward, I joined him onstage to ask questions from the audience and to ask a few of my own. It went pretty well, but I ran out of questions and didn't have a good one ready to bring it on home, so it fizzled a bit at the end. The audience didn't seem to mind though, leaping to their feet to give him a standing ovation.

Afterward, we went back to his hotel for some food and conversation. A woman name Shirla from Trinidad, who had traveled from Wales (UK) for the reading, joined us, as did Carine Mardorossian and Lori. I drove them to the airport this morning -- Walcott generously asked for a copy of my book, which I quickly detoured home to provide him with. On the road, we got a few more laughs about the ridiculousness of Ferraro's comments before I left them at the airport.

Catching Up on the Blog 2: Laynie Browne

laynie browne
Originally uploaded by ericajane
Last week, we were supposed to host a reading by Laynie Browne and Sina Queyras, which I was very much looking forward to. However, the day they arrived (Friday, March 7), the biggest snowstorm of the year arrived along with them. Sina drove Laynie down from Toronto, then promptly turned her car around and headed back before the storm got too bad. Not only did the snow keep anyone from showing up for the reading, it also grounded Laynie's travel plans until Monday morning. Not all was lost, as we got to spend the weekend with her, which was a true pleasure. We saw "Werckmeister Harmonies" on DVD and cooked Israeli Couscous with grilled vegetables on Saturday, then took Laynie to see "Diary of the Dead," her first ever Zombie movie on Sunday. We also took a chilly nature walk in a foot of snow at the Tiffts Farm nature preserve, where we fed the chickadees with bread. Anyhow, we hope she will come back to Buffalo soon to read for an audience. Meantime, check out her two latest books, The Scented Fox and Daily Sonnets. Check out Sina's book, Lemon Hound, too.

Catching Up on the Blog 1: The House

Mike and Lori's House
Originally uploaded by Mongibeddu
We finally closed on our house. It took more than four months of anxiety to go from offer to check in the bank. I caught two flus in the process. While we are somewhat sad to give up such a great house, we are relieved to be out of the neighborhood, which was making the both of us crazy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Busy Month in Poetry Town

There are a whole slew of great events this month in Buffalo. Here are a few highlights:

Friday, March 7

Just Buffalo/Small Press Poetry
Laynie Browne and Sina Queyras
Poetry Reading
Friday, March 7, 7 p.m.
Hallwalls Cinema, 341 Delaware Ave. @ Tupper

Thursday, March 13

Rooftop Poetry Club
Francisco Aragón & Roberto Tejada
Poetry Reading
Thursday, March 13, 4:30 p.m.
Butler Library 210, Buffalo State College


Just Buffalo/Hallwalls/International Institute/Babel
An Evening With Derek Walcott
Poetry Reading/Q & A with Nobel Prize Winner
Thursday, March 13, 8 p.m., $25
Asbury Hall @ Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave.

Tuesday, March 18

Poetics Plus at UB
Laura Elrick
Poetry Reading
Tuesday, March 18, 4 p.m.
The Poetry Collection, 420 Capen, UB North Camp.

Thursday, March 20

Poetics Plus at UB
Poetry Reading
Thursday, March 20, 4 p.m.
The Poetry Collection, 420 Capen, UB North Camp.

Friday, March 21

Just Buffalo/Small Press Poetry
An Evening of Flarf
Rod Smith, Nada Gordon, Gary Sullivan & Mel Nichols
Friday, March 21, 7 p.m.
Big Orbit Gallery, 30d Essex St.

Saturday, March 22

Just Buffalo/Small Press Poetry
Buffalo Small Press Book Fair
Book sales, readings, performances and more!
Saturday, March 22, 12-6 p.m.
Karpeles Manuscript Library, 453 Porter Ave.

Hope to see you there or there or there...