though I am a poet and have lived all my life in Minnesota, I had never been to
a poetry reading in Minnesota. Back in the early 1970's, I used to read poetry
at the open stages at the
So, I went to a poetry reading at the Loft last Saturday night. Actually it was a reading by two winners of some big award the Loft gives out and the person who had judged these poets worthy of the award. The poets of distinction read. Although I was not familiar with these particular poets, I read so much poetry in the journals that publish my work and in other journals that people send me that, I was pretty well prepared for what they had to offer. I actually found the evening very entertaining and it proved, I guess that even the crushing burdens of bureaucracy and academia cannot quite snuff the fire out of art. The first poet was kind of twisted, like Thomas Hart Benton on acid, which I liked and the other two did a fine job.
Then when the show was over, the MC had the poets line up on the stage to take questions from the audience. Nobody seemed to have any real questions and this part of the reading really did deteriorate into a bullshit session. But, asking artists to talk about art is sort of a general invitation to vocal flatulence, in my experience so, nothing really new with that. All three seemed to agree that they agonize over their poems for weeks, months or years. Okay, so what? Art is what it is, it
After the reading was a reception with food and a person playing the harp. I stepped on somebody's discarded chewing gum in the men's room so, my foot was sticking to the floor making me walk,
Well, I was beginning to suspect most of the gentlemen were named Biff and took a great interest in the sport of rowing while the women were enthusiastic about Ralph Nader, Garrison Kiellor and comfortable shoes. Unfortunately for me, I am more at home with factory workers, dead end civil servants and the more mainstream American madmen (and women) like you see at Hinckley Casino on a Saturday night, for example, or at a bar in East St. Paul. So, this really was not my kind of crowd. Besides, everybody seemed to know each other... "Oh Amanda, let me introduce Dr. Lunker from the Gerund Department...."
So, much as I was digging the nimble fingers of the harpist, plucking the intestines of long dead cats (maybe not, what are harp strings made of anyway?); I licked my plate, winked at an obviously insane woman with purple hair and clump stepped down the stairs. The reading was well done, the audience friendly and collegial, the ambiance warm wood and bricks, actually much like the old Extempore' except a tad more prosperous. I was glad to walk out into the Minneapolis night, glad to be out in the real America where cars are towed for parking in the wrong spot and where maniac drivers risk it all jockeying for position on the freeway bridge, heading toward the winking lights of St. Paul, with the hyper-aggressiveness that bespeaks pure honest American rage at 70 miles an hour. The streetlights whirled overhead and the bridge columns laughed like Sid Barrett on a good day. As I flew around the Highway 280 curve in a sea of taillights exactly the color of a poet's blood, George Thorogood came on the radio. I turned it up loud and as the roaring guitar tore the sky to shreds, I thought, "Bad to the Bone" is about all the poetry this fucked up society needs, wants or deserves.
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