She is part romantic, part bad ass; part Mary Oliver, part Charles Bukowski; part musician, part poet, and unafraid of letting all these parts of her show. On Friday, September 9th, Kim Addonizio celebrated the paperback release of her most recent book, Lucifer at the Starlite at the Beat Museum in North Beach, an appropriate venue considering her non-conventional reading style.
Any unsuspecting audience members anticipating a dry, pedantic reading for the evening must have been shocked. Addonizio’s set flowed like a concept album, progressing from edgy lyrical poems to homegrown harmonica solos to bluesy acoustic performances with the trio Nonstop Beautiful Ladies.
The tattooed, leather-jacket and ripped-denim-jean-clad Addonizio began her set with poems from an older book entitled Tell Me, a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award. She proceeded to read a few new, unpublished, fresh-from-the-desktop-printer poems, a real exclusive treat for the audience. In one of these new poems, entitled “Introduction to Poetry,” she says:
“Breasts are more poetic than penises, or vaginas, or sunsets. But better a penis or a vagina than a sunset, especially a sunset over a glittering ocean over the craggy peaks.” The room erupted in laughter—perhaps because Addonizio directly addressed a cliché, or maybe because she said the words “Penis” and “Vagina” on the microphone, or both—and the laughter was refreshing, so rare it is to feel the casual reading atmosphere that Addonizio evoked so effortlessly.
She then segued into the book of celebration, Lucifer at the Starlite, with a train song medley on harmonica as an interlude. Who knew she was such an excellent harmonica player? Her solos were rehearsed, dynamic, and passionate; she softly stomped her leather boot to keep rhythm, held hands covered in fingerless gloves up to her mouth as she closed her eyes and played. No novice, she had a “portfolio” of harmonicas that resembled a barber’s pouch of many variations of blades and shears—each one serving a distinct purpose.
The set ended with a couple of songs performed by the acoustic blues trio, Nonstop Beautiful Ladies. Addonizio even said that they were a “concept band” as of the moment, with a band name, album name, and song names already picked out; yet, you wouldn’t have guessed their “new-ness”—such a tight collaboration, organic in their freshness. The Nonstop Beautiful Ladies consist of: Peter Kline on guitar and vocals, Brittany Perham on percussion, and Addonizio on harmonica. Addonizio said before they played that one of her goals is to “Bring blues to poetry and bring poetry to blues, because they work so well together.” And as I glance at the Museum walls that surround Addonizio and her audience, looking at old photos of Allen Ginsberg and Elvis Presley, I can’t help but think they both would approve.
Here’s a preview:
Check the full performance, broken up into separate poems and songs, here.