Sunday, August 22, 2004

notes from the 2004 HOWL FESTIVAL 

(notes written saturday morning in Tompkins Square Park)

last night's reading is burned in my memory for permanent record

HOWL IS FOWL---but right now there's an angry old man with chalk, writing this critique of the festival on the sidewalk, and i believe he's the same angry old man who tried to climb on stage to read a poem while John Giorno was performing last night. security had to pull him away, and now he's here this morning to get his revenge. he's really pressing hard with the chalk, like he wants to tear through the cement, man is he angry.

the parade is coming through right now with queenly poet Taylor Mead as the The Grand Marsha(ll). (a side note, Taylor Mead is in a wonderful new documentary about Jackie Curtis called SUPERSTAR IN A HOUSEDRESS) the parade is a little disturbing in that giant heads of the Beats (Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg...) are on polls, and no fabric to resemble clothes, so, it looks like this band of crazed and excited freaks has killed a bunch of giants and are now showing the world the trophies from their conquest. but it's a great parade, with a lively New Orleans-type hyped-up brass band, lots of drag queens and mimes and kids handing out material for the Republican National Convention which is on its way

someone just handed me a BILLIONAIRES FOR BUSH sticker (did you hear what protest Toni Torn did with them recently? very funny, but get Greg Fuchs to tell you the details, because i was a little drunk when he told the story, and don't remember all details)

two drag queens Nanna and Banana heard me read my classified ad/poem on stage last night POET-AGENT IN SEARCH OF QUEER TRANSVESTITE BOXER, and wanted to know if they qualified. Nanna in particular has very big muscles, but Mike Tyson would flatten her pretty nose in no time i told her. she agreed, and wished me luck in finding a champion.

the poets i was thrilled to share the stage with last night were: Kazim Ali, Erica Kaufman, Anyssa Kim, Dinze Lauture, Janine Pomy-Vega, Edwin Torres, Tracie Morris, John Giorno, and Bernadette Mayer

i've always wanted to hear John Giorno and Bernadette Mayer read, BUT i never EVER thought i'd hear them read while reading in the same event WITH them! the event was fantastic, with Greg Fuchs and Christopher Stackhouse working the many aspects into a memorable frenzy

it's hard to believe that Bernadette Mayer had a stroke, and taught herself to speak and write again. she does walk with a cane, but has a mind as sharp as anyone's, and it was an honor and pleasure to hear her read. John Giorno was the only one of us to take a cordless microphone because he recites, instead of reads, bouncing all over the stage while he does so.

Edwin Torres and Tracie Morris both had some poems using sound outside formed words, the way both are separately known for. Morris did that amazing poem i heard her do in Philly at the ICA, it's a takeoff of "Working On A Chain Gang"

Erica Kaufman is one of my new favorite poets and people, she was GREAT. and she's an Elvis fan, and the two of us drank HOWL punch (which has a punch) later and talked for hours about Elvis, and being queer Elvis fans, and about Elvis as super-angel, etc., and much etc.

HASSEN, Erica is also a BIG fan of you, and your poems! we spent time talking about you and your poems in the midst of our freakish Elvis hysteria, right where you belong honey

Allen Ginsberg was the ghost host, of course, and so i wanted to perform something he had written. many folks don't know that he had written alternative lyrics to AMAZING GRACE. these lyrics are about homelessness. so i decided to sing the song with Ginsberg's lyrics, and i dedicated the singing of it to Marsha P. Johnson, the first person who threw the first brick at the Stonewall riot. about ten years ago i had heard Marsha P. Johnson give an angry, memorable speech in that very park about how she had become homeless and forgotten, and how it was drag queens like herself and butch lesbians who duked it out with the police (it was a brutal fight), while the frightened republican-type queers FLED out the backdoor. Marsha P. Johnson (sorry to keep using her full name, but she deserves respect) was murdered soon after that speech, strangled to death and found floating in the river. it's hard to believe anyone could strangle her, she seemed so strong, POWERFUL, like a superhero and invincible. to this day i can't remember whether it was her or someone else there at that speech who was wearing the T-shirt that said STONEWALL WAS A RIOT NOT A TRADEMARK!

anyway, i sang the song, dedicated to Johnson and Ginsberg, 2 great American revolutionaries, and then i read my letter to the president, since he's on his way, and everyone loved it. people came up to me to tell how weird it was, but that they liked it. i read Frank Sherlock's poem CLINK, and Frank, you need to know that when i first said i was going to read your poem, lots of folks in the audience cheered. i ended my reading with Bob Kaufman's poem BELIEVE, BELIEVE. a leaf fell on my arm while reading this poem, which was odd because there were no leaves falling, and no wind, and so i put the leaf in the book, to mark this poem. by the way, the poem is from his book, GOLDEN SARDINE

"Let the voices of dead poets
Ring louder in your ears
Than the screechings mouthed
In mildewed editorials.
Listen to the music of centuries,
Rising above the mushroom time."
--from BELIEVE, BELIEVE by Bob Kaufman

it's so goddamned humid, and HOT. and i'm so FAT! a young woman is going up to everyone on these benches in her CRUNCH GYM shirt asking "would you like a free week at CRUNCH?" she got lots of folks to sign up. she came to me and i said, "do they have free snacks? i'll show up for the snacks and cheer everyone on while they're swimming laps or lifting weights." she laughed, she needed to laugh, she's very nice for someone in peak physical condition

last night after the poetry, and after a few too many glasses of HOWL punch, i was telling someone (was it Brenda Bordofsky?) something like, "yeah, yesterday i was so thin, but there must have been extra fat molecules in the oxygen above my bed because i woke up like this! none of my clothes fit! i had to wear a bedsheet to the store to buy more clothes!" but seriously, i'm always the fattest ass when i visit New York City. there were a couple of fat people on the train the day before, but they got off in Trenton. i arrived at Penn Station the fattest. and being the only one of my kind, i introduced myself to the nice man selling vegan sweet rolls. YUM!

one of my FAVORITE quotes from the evening we all spent at The Telephone Bar:

STEVE: So I guess I'm going to the sex party.

CHARLES: Now, when you get in there, play it cool, don't appear too eager.


those notes above were written saturday morn. later, it rained, and the poets who were to read at the Poetry Project didn't read. but the drag queens didn't fizzle. Alison Collins went with me back to Tompkins Square Park where we watched WIGSTOCK on the very same stage as the night before! it was wonderful! Lady Bunny said, "If you're a gay republican, you're either greedy, or stupid. Oh, that's not true, because you could be both!" i LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE WIGSTOCK, i want everyDAY to be WIGSTOCK, i want EVERYONE i know and LOVE to be part of WIGSTOCK, because it's fun and weird and lots of hair and jewelry and well, why not

it's no surprise that, while even poets won't read because of something like rain, drag queens just go ahead, as though NOTHING'S gonna stop 'em!


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