After adding the brilliant Jen G to replace Andrew Paul Nelson, who is busy with the band, the new shit show is in danger of becoming too slam/performance -centric. “So there’s been an awful lot of pro-Santa Cruz sentiment spoken up here in the last five minutes,” G said after 3 or 4 poets in a row got up and repped the city. “As somebody who’s lived there, I can say, doubtlessly, that that place sucks dolphin cocks from hell.”
That issue notwithstanding, the quality of the work this past week included a smattering of superb poems, most notably those of Terry Taplin, Daphne Gottlieb, Jasmine, James Cagney and Leo Bryant… But it also included as many moments not worth sharing. There was one surreal stretch of time during which the whole room joyously sang Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose”—worth sharing. But of note more than anything was the abundance of old poems: “I know this is the new shit show, but… [excuse here, I just want some attention].” There’s a fine line between the hottest open mic in town and just another shit show [All videos here].
Co-host Nic Alea read the following night at Dolo Park Cafe with Charlie Getter and Guinevere Q, accompanied by Julie Indelicato and Xandra Corpora of Con Brio in what must have been a rowdy crowdy. Don’t know though because I went to the Zen Center for the last installment of Nothing Is Hidden, the series of readings and talks curated by Genine Lentine to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind [Here for TOC; here to start listening].
Much has been said about this evening in advance, and for good reason. In addition to two excellent readings, the packed-out room of considerate poetry/Zen admirers received a couple of invaluable insights on the nature of poetry, thanks in large part to Ariel Fintushel and Keely Hyslop, who asked the following during the brief Q&A afterward:
AF: You both write about grief and bewilderment, and out of that both of you sometimes go into politics. Is there a connection?
Matthew Dickman: Because politics come from human beings I think there’s a direct connection between politics and grief.
Matthew Zapruder: Anyone who’s awake right now has to feel some deep grief with how we interact politically… and I think I wouldn’t begrudge a poet who didn’t want to write about politics or to feel connected with that—that’s completely fine, but I think it’s absurd when people say that ‘politics don’t belong in poetry.’ I mean, that seems very arbitrary to me… Given that that’s a part of human experience, I don’t see why that wouldn’t be part of poetry as well.
KH: There’s a lot of space between where your poems begin and where they end, particularly in Matthew Zapruder’s work, and I was wondering if that’s a particular thing you do as you edit—like [do] you try to move further into the subject matter, or is it naturally a part of the writing process that the poems meander a bit?
MZ: When people teach poetry… they’re really obsessed about making it all one thing—like it should all be connected—the beginning should be intimately connected, or pick up on, the end. Or this obsession with intentionality… I find that baffling. I don’t see why it wouldn’t start in one place… It’d be like considering if you were to sit down and have a conversation with a really good friend, and you have a great connection with them, and after an hour or so you’re like, ‘That was great, but unfortunately, you know, at the end we were talking about something really different than the beginning, so I’m going to have to say it’s not a good conversation.’ You know? Or like the walk you went on; like ‘god, you know, I saw three gold leaves at the beginning and if I don’t see those gold leaves at the end it’s going to be a real disappointment.’ I just don’t understand the fetishizing. I feel vaguely like that might be an English teacher kind of thing, like that might be to the benefit of English teachers to fetishize those connections, because then they can point them out to the bewildered students. But I’m not so sure that’s the point of poetry, at least for me. (But what do I know? I’m just… writing things.) [Watch their remarkable readings, with an erudite intro by Lentine, here]
It was a singular week. First Person Singular announced their new spinoff, Hoot, “a monthly, musical, open mic based on a theme. A new take on the traditional hootenanny, HOOT! will delve into the entirety of popular song—our modern folk inheritance—in programs that highlight the perennial concerns that culturally define us.” More on that to come (the first installment is September 4).