poems are a series of words

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005
livewire/wordstock post #3
Right in front of the stage (in the area where people usually crowd the stage to dance or stare rapturously at a rock show) was a folding table with laptops and what turned out to be the producers. The stage itself was small and seemed tiny with lots of wires, stands, instruments, chairs, wires, stands, and lastly, people! The crowd filed in,finding seats, getting beer, standing around and chatting. One of the things I love is the time right before a show (any show) begins - it is all possibility. It could be the best show ever! Plus, people are usually pretty jazzed to be there so there is laughing and lots of "oh, hi!" kind of stuff. The crowd noise gets steadily louder and louder until suddenly it is really loud. I always mentally equate this with the old yarn about the frog in the pot of water that gets slowly hotter and hotter, but so gradually he doesn't notice until it is, tragically, Too Late. I think I need a better mental equation, but mathematics have never been my strong-suit. Anyway, the producers got up on stage and gave some direction to the audience. They showed the cue cards (like "clap" or "hold") but didn't really use them much. I guess this audience had preternatural clapping skills! I should point out that at this point the house band Klezmocracy, was already up on stage warming up the crowd. They are awesome, but I suppose it helps that klezmer music makes me happy in general due to liberal application of jaunty accordion.

The next section is a blur. The hostess came on stage in a fab. black dress and said a little bit, the Faces For Radio Theater people came out, dressed in costumes (they turn out to be literary references: the Playboy Advisor, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, and Marilyn Monroe). They did a bit - and are generally v.v. funny. During pieces like this I sort of get a feeling for what performers mean when they say they feed off of the energy of the crowd. I went to some great shows last year, and the best ones were where the crowd was just so INTO IT. It was a shared experience between the audience and performer, not just some packaged entertainment like television. But I digress. This crowd was INTO IT. (yay!)

Early on, they brought out poet Scott Poole, who is the Wordstock director (which is a different position from the founder, Larry Colton. I kept getting confused and wondering why articles were all Larry this and Larry that. What about Scott? But it turns out to be apples and oranges, or directors and founders.) He talked a bit about the festival and how it was going (it had been underway since the 19th), and then he read two poems. SO GOOD. And funny, which I was not necessarily expecting. Both of them are available to read on his website (and of course to hear on the radio or watch on cable access). The first one was for the brother i never had. I thought that maybe I just liked it so much because of his delivery (which was superb), but the poems totally stand up without it. (although if you have the opportunity to hear him read them himself, you should). The second poem , My Suggestion I liked even more. I have been in a broken down car, and find myself prone to similar wrathful thinking, so it really struck me, I guess. Here's the text of that one (also available at the link above):


When the car broke down outside The Dalles, Oregon,
my suggestion was to get the spear from the anthropology conference
out of the trunk and stab the damn car several hundred times
in the tires, hood, lights, roof, trunk, windshields
and doors. I lamented that we didn't have a hundred spears
so we could leave them stuck in the car every time we stabbed it
thus giving it the look of a giant porcupine with wheels.
I thought we should get some hot oil from somewhere and pour it
over the top of the vehicle. Why not
beat on it with a shovel until it took the shape
of a giant metal head with wild spear hair?
Think of all the people that would pull over
imagining the giant melted head a "tourist event."
Consider the traffic, the police, the imitators
burning their cars in joy, the art critics, wine
& cheese events in the half-light of the canyon,
people in black milling about, talking about raw energy,
Renoir, Cézanne, Rodin, everyone French.
We could just hang out there
in the caves way up the canyon wall and watch,
eating popcorn and rabbits, making buffaloes our pets.
Oh would I love to ride a buffalo down the hill
with a six-pack hanging over its neck so I could huck
a can at a tourist and say "Gentle traveler. There's a special music
when you run your hand along the spine of a salmon."
Let's just attack every car that drives by with
spears, dynamite, and giant boulders like German deities,
and then run back to our ancient cave womb and
make love so beautiful it changes the shape of the planets.
She looked at me, then called a tow truck, thank God.

Scott Poole

... livewire posts to be continued, god help me
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