Tuesday, January 04, 2005

notes on the PACE Xmas eve day experiment/debut/excitement 

Not at all exaggerating when I say that our PACE debut reading on the streets of Philadelphia Xmas eve day was the best time I have ever had reading. I mean it, the best time I've ever had reading.

Thank you Frank Sherlock and Linh Dinh for coming up with the idea, and giving us the motivation to get out there. Thanks also to Matt McGoldrick and Nicole McEwan for sharing the fun and sharing the feedback of the found audience.

Much like any historical Situationist undertaking, we planned to break through the veil of bullshit on the street, the planned movements to and fro business, home, work, business, shop, home, christmas, work, shop, business.

What I expected to be confronting for the world, turned out to be as confronting for myself, mainly because of the joy we were met with.

Frank read to a woman on a bicycle who loved his reading and took all of our broadsides home with her.

Mytili read to a man selling newspapers who is from India, and wanted to know about her family back on the faraway continent.

I read to some hippies who wanted a hug.

Linh read to a man unloading tools from his van who loved Linh's poem so much he gave Linh a copy of his band's CD.

We started out in front of the Old Navy neon in front of the Gallery Mall. At one point Linh read in front of McDonald's with a sign draped over his front, "APE LAUREATE" while reading his poem "Planet Of the Apes." Cops on bicycles watched from across the street, but never moved toward us, which was nice. And a bit surprising considering that cops on bicycles approached me last week when standing on the corner of 18th and Walnut waiting for Mary Kalayna to pick me up. I guess because I was standing there for 30 minutes (she was LATE!), but it freaked me out that they had been keeping an eye on me, and that I hadn't even noticed them until they approached and wanted to know what I was standing around for.

Am I missing something, or did those sidewalk laws get passed through City Hall just before the 2000 republican convention in town? The ones that state that you can't be standing in one spot for more than 30 minutes on a sidewalk?

Anyway, my point is that the PACE experience was nothing short of beautiful. And we all came prepared with broadsides to hand out. Frank had the most festive, for the holiday, red paper folded twice to resemble a Christmas card, "Peace On Earth" on the front, with sketch of a burning candle. Inside, the poem...

by Frank Sherlock




There is an asterisk at the last stanza, with a footnote for the source, "Christian Parenti, The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq. p. 192

Mytili's broadside was a small, handsome gray card stock, with the poem...

Open Letter
by Mytili Jagannathan

the conditions are speaking to us
do we speak to the conditions or
to the winner do we speak the conditions
in our deliberate mouths is our speaking
conditional is our love
conditionally speaking is this love
against the stranger breaking down
conditioning us for sound
of cutting off talk and rebirth to real
kindness borne as bricks
under these conditions a roof
cover us over and do
my conditions speak to yours
innocently are they instructive can we
deconstruct them are they without home
and shared are they circular if no one
ends these conditions are we stuck
are we solid are we salty
are we scissors do we
survive clutching the end
of a condition with our fear as food
is our love dimensional are we new arc
are we meeting here the radical
avalanche of now
are we solid
are we seeming
do we say

Linh's broadside was "Planet Of the Apes" and he used the idea of the movie poster, with the statue of liberty in the bottom left corner, and in the upper right, instead of a close-up of one of the apes, it's George W. Bush.

by Linh Dinh

Apes are encouraged
To wear blue jeans,
Lean English grammar.

Enraged, they blow up
The Capitol Building.

Street to street combat,
Countless civilian corpses,
Civilization burns.

Ape fighters trapped inside
The Jefferson Memorial
Are blown to smithereens
By our own ape soldiers.

I've seen these apes so many times
Wearing T-shirts that don't make sense
Crowding the check-out counters at K-Mart.

The president finally appears on TV
To announce that freedom and democracy
Have scorched the forces of evil.

For my own broadside I had purple paper with a reproduction of the ancient Norse god Herne, with his giant antlers, hovering above two entwined horses, the horses to represent my love for George W. Bush, as part of the love poem I wrote for him. This piece is so long, I'd rather you just "click here" to read an online version.

PACE has begun. And I suggested to Frank (as well as to John Coletti up at the New Years Day St. Mark's reading) that PACE can make itself available at any time in any city with any city's poets. In other words, suppose we contact Boston poets, and say, meet us at such-and-such corner at such-and-such a time on a particular date and from there walk the city reading to the people we meet.

Poetry readings have suddenly become far more exciting than I ever expected them to become, and how exciting is that? No funding, no designated space to fret over, and all the audience you could ever hope to acquire, and a bigger audience, and an audience who will surprise you long before you surprise them.


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