Tuesday, December 21, 2004

smoke gets in yr eyes 

I want to follow up on Chris' post supporting LaTazza by asking: YO, WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE??!! : Great staff (shout out to Frank, Tammy and Leslie, who along with the whole LaTazza ambience, made a cameo appearance in Jena's "swerve" reading), eclectic menu, eclectic jukebox, cool ambience (RELAXED), Don Riggs (say no more!), men's bathroom accomodates two, always unexpected events following readings (still amazed at the Friendster/MySpace goth/preppy party climax of Spring '04-- WHOAA!!). Wait, I hear a voice from the peanut gallery?...So there's smoke. Yeah. It bothers me too. But.. it's a BAR!! And this ain't New York...yet! I have endured the smoke and will continue to endure it for the many great readings Frank curates. (And really the smoke doesn't get unbearable until later, and if there are a lot of people). So, if someone is *invited* to do a reading and goes away unhappy --knowing already what to expect from a bar venue--, then my only conclusion can be that they *came* unhappy, or with attitude, and didn't expect to be satisfied from the beginning. One complaint in particular that I have heard is that there is an elitism that occurs at the readings. I think this is a misreading of what we understand to be camaraderie. In any group, there is a certain amount of jibing and in-joking, which might be misconstrued as elitist. However, I have never seen anyone who was invited not be welcomed into discussion (unless they engendered some hostility themselves from the start).

Now, Chris' post segues nicely into the issue of the Philly scene itself, which I've been thinking about lately and wanted to discuss: I think it's been HUMMING lately. The last several LaTazza readings have been great and great fun to be at. And now Jenn McCreary has started up the series at Benna's Cafe (cheers to Jenn), and I am happy to say the inaugural reading this past Sunday afternoon was cozy and congenial. It's a nice intimate space, a good contrast to LaTazza, and both Ethel Rackin and Kevin Varrone gave very good readings, and much of the community was out to support them and Jenn. This community has come a long way, and it's wonderful to see this level of support and camaraderie flowering in all of its internecine ways. When Greg and I started the Highwire series in the summer of '98, our intention was to *stir up* a scene and then to *stir* it, which I think we did on both counts. But I don't think either of us could have imagined that Frank would have soldiered on for 5 years and counting, and that the scene would continue to grow and be nourished, and that people from other places would come here and rave about how close-knit and friendly our community is. That sounds like something to be proud of, something in which we all have participated. After all, this whole endeavor in my view is as much about fostering and nurturing a community as it is about the poetry. Many of us have come together out of a common love for poetry, and have ended up with much more than that-- by strengthening existing friendships and forging new ones. We have moved beyond our initial formative passions to find other things to appreciate about each other, and we have continued to inspire and encourage each other's passions along the way. We have created an ongoing model of a community based on love, moral and artistic integrity, and camaraderie. And that, folks, in this day and age, is truly an accomplishment.

In light of these invaluable attributes of our community, the complaints that natter on matter not one drop.

Kyle Conner

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