Saturday, January 2, 2010

I'm called "The Helen Mirren of Poetry" -- 2 New Year's Day readings

I didn't blog on 1-1-10 because I was busy. I had planned on blogging. The first day of a new year let alone a new decade did seem to be an auspicious time to be public, but I spent the morning doing nothing of use, and the afternoon and evening (until midnight) listening to poets.

I started off at the Bowery Poetry Club, where the annual poetry marathon was underway. It was too crowded to get a seat in back where the stage and bar are, so I sat at a table in front and served as a beacon to other poets who stopped by with greetings. That is until Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo whisked me away and over to the Poetry Project's annual marathon.

Here's the difference between the two events. The Poetry Project New Year's fund raiser/reading, in its 35th year invites poets and a few musicians read by invitation only; it costs at least $15 (for ten hours of entertainment). The Bowery Poetry Club marathon began in protest--battle of the East Village poets. Bob Holman, maestro of the BPC and one of the hippest people I will ever meet, donates the space so it's free. Readers also invited but there's an open mic every few hours. The BPC presumably makes money off its bar, while the Poetry Project, sharing its housing with a church, sets up large tables in the back room for potluck dishes (pretty cheap) and the like.

Both events were wonderful. New Year's Day is always a day of healing for me. I see people I've been resenting and forgive everything. Yesterday, sitting in two different but capacious "containers" for poetry and poets I also experienced a blessed sense of deflation about myself as a poet. There are so many of us. Audiences want to be entertained or amazed or given hope or blissfully confounded.

No one really knows anything. We all keep writing. We all could be doing something else but we all believe that's not the case. No one knows whose work will last. Competition is futile. Big breasts don't necessarily help. Hipness can help but so can sincerity, not that the two are mutually exclusive.

I might have taken a bus home for a quick write, but I'd left my wallet at home. That's pretty weird! I had slipped change from a ten after I'd bought coffee that morning, so I was able to buy some food, but I didn't have my bus pass.

And I decided it's better to be with friends--and I have friends among the washed and unwashed, the invited and disgruntled--than adhere to that old petty consistency. See, I'd MADE a plan and abandoned it. Reason #902 why I'm Not a Planner.

I left the Poetry Project around 8, returned to the Bowery Poetry Club (they are maybe ten blocks apart), found the Roberts (two great friends of mine) at the Bowery and sat with them for the next thee hours. Big Mike was the host for my time slot--I'd been scheduled in the 10-midnight slot this year. He has dedicated his life to shouting and vulgarity (Big Mike also calls himself Big Fucking Mike); his undergrad. degree is from Columbia and he's a nurse.

He shouted his usual lovable insults before I got on stage, setting me up for a punch line, God bless him. Good to start off with a laugh. Keeping in mind Jee Leong Koh's comment about my poetry, that it's not always easy to understand at a poetry reading, I selected two poems that do appeal to all variety of listeners and did a sterling job of it, if I do say so. The audience, a bit tipsy and very happy, was attentive when I read and when I finished, shouted and clapped. Big Mike shouted one of the greatest compliments I've ever received.

"That was Sarah Sarai, the Helen Mirren of poetry!"

After that, the evening was a dream.

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