Monday, December 27, 2010

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 5 (Dan Machlin)

Dear Body
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Machlin, Dan
Dear Body

Sent to me by the author -- or by the publisher. I can't remember which. Inscribed.

Dan Machlin, who also publishes Futurepoem books, is my oldest friend in the poetry world. We met in 1996, when Dan worked as the manager of the Segue Foundation and Roof Books. He was also working on his MA at City College at the time, where he studied with Ann Lauterbach and a whole circle of other poets, like Garrett Kalleberg and Heather Ramsdell and Genya Turovsky and also with my college friend Stephen Mounkhall.

It is because of Stephen that I met Dan. Stephen began a part-time project at Segue working to collect an archive of titles previously distributed by the organization before its NEA funding had been discontinued. The archive being around the corner from my apartment in the East Village, Steve would on occasion call me for a cup of coffee when he was working. Once he invited me over for a tour of the archive. This was also more or less my introduction to contemporary poetry.

Around this time, Steve and his wife Nicole found out they were going to have their first child and so he was forced to give up his archiving post, which he kindly passed along to me. That's how I met Dan.

I don't really remember the first time we met, though I can picture talking to Dan in that basement space. My memory is more clear of how my friendship with Dan made my last year in New York, which was quite a painful one, much more bearable.

At first I would run into him at Segue and he would say, Hey you should come check out this reading upstairs tonight, or he would invite me to come to a reading at the Poetry Project. I was trying really hard to keep up on all the poets I was being introduced to and assimilating all of the information coming in about the poetry scene as quickly as I could.

I remember hearing rumblings about some magazine in Buffalo called Apex of the M and how inviting some of the Buffalo poets to read could might be viewed as a slap in the face to the language writers who published and were published by Roof Books. I remember Dan putting together a panel to celebrate the publication of Bob Perelman's "The Marginalization of Poetry," which I missed while traveling in Ecuador that winter and how I felt like I had really missed out on something. I remember Dan telling me to come to a reading by Peter Gizzi so I could ask him about Buffalo.

I used to help Dan set up the readings in the Segue space, which was essentially a small dance studio on the first floor of an artist co-op. I always admired Dan's attention to detail. Like how after all the chairs and the podium were in place, he would make an otherwise blank room feel homey by running to the Bodega on the corner and buying a small bouquet of flowers to set next to the water pitcher on a table next to the reader.

After the readings, Dan would always introduce me to other poets, who would talk to me for a little while before finding someone more important to talk to. Regardless, Dan would always invite me out for coffee or a meal after the reading.

But Dan was more important to me that year for his friendship than for helping me navigate the NY poetry scene. As I have mentioned before, I spent most of that year in a deep depression after a painful break-up. As I started making it out to poetry readings and meeting new people and working at Segue and all that, the depression began to lift. Then my father suddenly died in November and I felt like I was in real danger of slipping back into it.

Soon after I'd returned from the funeral in Virginia Dan, who I'd really only just met, invited me to a party at his friend's loft in Soho. A week later I got a call from his partner, Serena, who invited me to Dan's birthday party. Everything else in NY felt quite cold to me that year. Winter, death, depression. Even the poetry scene, which on the one hand was a great pleasure to find, also felt quite cold when it came to getting to know people. But Dan (and Serena), reached out and I was (and am still) grateful for their kindness.

It was also Dan who gave me my first poetry reading in NY -- and my second and third -- after I moved to Buffalo, for which I am also grateful.

Anyhow, I was extremely happy when his book, the culmination of about a decade of work, finally came out in 2007, around the same time as my Human Scale, which explains the inscription:

To Mike:

Here's to
Duelling books and
continued poetic

Warm regards and friendship--

I wish Dan had more books for me to write about, because I could say a lot more. I'll have to find a way to slip him in somewhere else, lest this entry grow way too long!

from Dear Body

Opus Incertum

I often wept into saying.
Wept over the unsaid sayings.
Slept in the loft of an
unknown artist.
I was hurt.
I was unhurt.
I sang into the wind.
There was no wind.
Whatever pain finally
Became my anger.
Whatever anger
finally became my pain.
No longer material.
Metaphoric rock.

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