Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Tallest to Smallest: The Philly Sound at the 2-1-5 Fest  

While the name the Philly Sound (and this blog) have only recently emerged, just about everything else connected with it has been going on for years now. The multiple friendships, a shared affinity in politics, poetry, and mixing-it-up with other words with the letter p in it [please post your p-list] have been in the works for sometime.

The Philly Sound reading at the 2-1-5 Festival at La Tazza this past Saturday night highlighted many of the deep roots and shared associations the poets have with one another. In addition to reading their own work, each poet also read the work of a poet either not there, or not reading that evening.

Here is a brief overview of the reading and of some of those connections:

Frank Sherlock lead off the evening using every trick in the book to handle, contend, and counter a table of high-as-the-fucking-sky La Tazza patrons (not there for the reading) who were simply unable to stop giggling throughout his reading). Despite this, Frank was forthright (even though he himself succumbed to laugher twice) and he ended on a powerful note with a poem by Greg Fuch’s, which itself was homage to Ted Berrigan;

Jennifer Snead read a poem that I recently wrote called "Assorted Diligence." She was also joined by her lifelong friend Jane who stood-in as the voice (which I could only faintly hear) of T.S. Eliot, and dedicated her longer, edgy, and emotionally layered poem "South Street Bridge," to Fran Ryan;

CAConrad, who wore a black t-shirt with the names of the women who were murdered during the Salem Witch trails, read poems by Buck Downs and Mariana Ruiz Firmat as well as his some of his own poems, which were dedicated to Dodie Bellamy & Kevin Killian and had punchy, sexually frank, and outrageous textual interpolations from Maggie Zurawski;

Fran Ryan read his deliberate (something cutting) poems with lines and references from one of the silent partners of the Philly Sound Matt McGoldrick, and read an excellent poem by Patti McCarthy, who Fran related was the Philly Sound poet whose work he feels most sympathy with his own;

Jenn McCreary read a poem by Gil Ott from his Sun and Moon collection and from her own work, which continues to have its measured, intense, and quite magic;

hassen ended the evening by reading poems by Alicia Askenase and Don Riggs. She also read a poem for Don, which she said was an email she had never sent. In addition to that she also read poems from an on-going series of poems on the Salem Witch Trials, which felt like punk rock without the back-up band -- a total spell-breaker;

A side note: If you happened to walk into the La Tazza before the reading and wondered why Fran Ryan and Jenn McCreary were standing back to back, or why CAConrad and Jennifer Snead were standing shoulder to shoulder. Frank decided that the poets would read from tallest to smallest. There was a moment when it was not clear if high-heel shoes would count and I’m not sure that was ever cleared-up.

It’s good to stick around after a La Tazza reading. I had a Yuengling with Matt McGoldrick and also had a wonderful conversation with a friend of Fran’s named Emily who discussed plans (or maybe she was just riffing on the spot) for a Gingko Festival on charming Quince Street. Among other things, Emily explained the ancient gingko’s relation to the pine tree, which she said you are able see echoed in the gingko leaf itself. Later, hassen kindly drove me down to Geno’s with Jennifer and Conrad along for the ride so I could get a cheese steak (provolone with), for which I was grateful.

On the Passyunk Ave. side of Geno’s, Little Joey Merlino drank a root beer and sat with nearly ten associates. The women who were married (or the girlfriends) to the men wearing the $3,000 suits all sat and ate inside of Geno’s in the orange booths, which I realized I had never seen anyone else use before. Nicole, Matt, Frank, Conrad and hassen all went to Dobbies for a night cap and I went home to expire, coming off the heels working all day, and several other 2-1-5 fest nights out in a row, which included Patti Smith at the Free Library (Mytili was there and it was her 31st birthday!!) and a reading at Writers House the two nights before with readers from McSweeney's, Fence, Verse, and Open City which ended up late at the Tritone on South Street. All of which are 8,000 other stories.... and now it's 12:41 AM Monday night -- (I can't believe I'm still up). Good night.


(As I said, hassen drove me home so I left my bike across the street from La Tazza locked up to a street sign. At the time it made sense, but as far as my bike was concerned it wasn't the smartest thing to do given the thousands people walking the outdoor runway that is Chestnut Steet and trolling out in every shiny direction to all of the night clubs in Old City. I was unable to pick up my bike until the following night when I arrived back there around 9:30 PM, after the PBQ 2-1-5 reading, and low, yes, the bike was there -- quick release back tire and all!)


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