WEEK IN REVIEW: the heart’s many orbits

(Evan Karp)

A group of poets formed a constellation to benefit the poet with a new heart, who might, as one suggested, grow a new heart with each book. So far, $172,000 has been raised in a national effort to keep this poet alive and talking. In 2008, the average first-year expense for a heart transplant was $787,700. “We need to raise a lot more money,” said one of the poets, head of the national effort. “This is just the beginning. 170,000 is just not enough.” So rare is it to see a group of people estimate another’s life as approaching invaluable. At least in public.

In North Beach, a legendary beat poet read from his first-ever City Lights publication, despite being the longtime friend and otherwise cohort of Mr. Ferlinghetti, who, along with other well-known literary figures, attended the reading. Some haunted Spec’s afterward, elders, disfigured with age, clutching goblets and sniggering gleefully. Nicole McFeely, a reporter for Litseen.com, said the experience was exactly the kind she had moved to San Francisco for. “All of the old poets are nicer because they mean it when they’re nice. It’s not some silly game anymore—people trying to prove something. It’s done, proven.”

At the same time, in Oakland, a group consisting mostly of graduate students drinking beer and talking too loudly celebrated the interdisciplinary creation of art. Young poets read clumsily, and a baby was crying, but the art is at least as inspirational as the poetry that inspired it.

Also in Oakland, also at the same time, teams recently formed on the basis of spoken word talent came together for the first time to battle one another, in preparation for a national series of bouts, after which… Before which, there are several more battles [more].

In Petaluma, noir met paranormal romance, flash fiction and intellectual British humor. Bawdy Storytelling returned to Oakland—now doing 2 shows per month—Manic D Press threw a pre-Pride reading, and ruth weiss celebrated her 83rd birthday with a poetry and jazz party.

Matthew Stadler, creation of Publication Studios, spoke about his decision to write and publish Chloe Jarren’s La Cucaracha, a “cover novel” based on John le Carré’s A Murder of Quality. “Everything we do or write is composed from something we inherit, and we always get it wrong,” he said. Here for more of what this means, and here.

Several blocks away, a band celebrated its first self-release on the premise and promise of collaborative self-expression. “When we write songs, the subject matter is personal to each of us and we combine our ideas on a certain topic and flesh out a theme that we agree on… We write these songs for us, and then we share them.” The bassist’s mother, a writer, said she had spent the previous 16 days recounting the day before, each in 1,000 words of fiction. “Distillations,” she called them. She seemed very happy, to have found a new way to express herself. “Does a life have a plot,” she asked. We were standing in the middle of an old street on the periphery of town.

We did not stay for the show, which got started later than we could afford. We purchased tacos from a street vendor who happened to be there.

Check back later today for a preview of this week’s event. See you at 5pm?