Tuesday, April 12, 2005

lotta La Tazza LOVE 

So I wrote to a bunch of people and asked them to please send some thoughts and feelings on La Tazza. But for Christ's sake don't tell Frank about it, please!

Because Frank, this is for you,
surprise and looking forward to the next ... landing,
p.s. anyone else wanting to share, by all means write me, CAConrad13@AOL.com
or write, ThePhillySound@hotmail.com

from Alicia Askenase
Dear Frank,

For starters, I would like to say that the La Tazza series is one of the best I have ever attended. And in the Philadelphia area, it’s number One! It has been a magical “scene” for me, (often, wonderfully, bordering on magic-realism as the post-reading evenings progressed…)

A series in which with Kyle Connors, Greg Fuchs, Maggie Zurowski, and then impressively on your own, you managed to consistently present a remarkable group of emerging and established writers—all under the modest, totally cool roof of the La Tazza café. Writers many of us would have never heard or met otherwise. You wrote amazing (and entertaining!) on-the-mark introductions, and were generous and savvy in terms of your pairings of out-of-town and local writers.

The series has been a sanctuary to the many writers and appreciative audiences who were fortunate enough to gather, and be transformed there. I know I was.* My participation in this community has been very important to me, both aesthetically and socially. In the last two and a half years I’ve rarely missed a reading, and have always looked forward to them. The series has offered everyone who entered its microcosm this great warmth, camaraderie and sense of and joy. And Frank, I have cherished it—thank you so much.

Your contribution to the independent literary life of this city and beyond is immeasurable. I’m hopeful this is not the end, but the beginning of another installment we’ve yet to imagine…and I look forward to seeing you, where and whenever it re-emerges, which it undoubtedly will.

With many great memories,
and love,


* (I don’t mean transformed by the chocolate martinis here, but please note Conrad’s April 8 post, in which he says, “My love for poetry and the chocolate martini go hand in loving hand”!)

Dear Frank-At the last reading I was speaking with Tina Darragh and she asked me how I knew you all. After explaining the connection, she remarked --so you like the poetry? I said it was more than that; the series, including both the poets you bring into read and the people who are moved to come out reading after reading, grounds me. To some it might sound silly, that words, spoken, written and shared could be one's earth. However, even if I don't always agree with those words, even if I wouldn't have used those words myself or even if those words are not in my vocabulary the words become a shared garden. Thanks for keeping it watered for so long!lots of love,Alexthegirl

from Anne Cecil
I met all of you through Alex at the LaTazza series so it has meant a great deal to me on many levels. I acquired an entirely new circle of friends who welcomed me, included me and supported my work in the visual arts. I have learned a great deal about poetry, delivery, and publication. I have had provoking thought and challenging discussion on a wide variety of topics. One of the things I most enjoyed though was the haven that the consistency of the series offered. Even though I couldn't make every one, I always knew that on "poetry" night I would have somewhere to go where I would be welcomed and stimulated.I hope to see you all soon and that there is a continuation of this excellent series.Anne

from Sydney Coffin
Dear CA and Frank,
Despite my absence from downtown Philadelphia and the poetry series, I think of you often and miss you all dearly. You are my favorite group of friends and I appreciate the community we have had through the series at La Tazza. I feel like Alex, who disappeared for a year, and yet I'm only a half hour away. Please continue to meet. I will return when I have written my opus.
Love, Sydney.

from Charles Bernstein
I wanted to write to you about how the great importance I attach La Tazza and related, long-running bar/cafe series. Such series are the heart of a local poetry community. When Ted Greenwald and I started the Ear Inn series in 1978, we were doing something similar to what you Frank Sherlock does with La Tazza. Over 25 years later, the old Ear Inn series continues, now at the Bowery Poetry Club, but still the same time and with Segue Foundation coordination -- and with a surprising continuity of readers including of course an entirely new generation. My own recent reading at La Tazza was a great pleasure and I appreciated the chance to read there in what now turns out to be the final days of the place. But, surely, the La Tazza experience can continue, even if not at La Tazza.My first reading in Philadelphia was in the late 70s. Bruce Andrews and I were invited to read at McGlinchey's. We read with Ernest Robeson (about whom Bruce later wrote in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E). I wonder if anyone has a recollected about that series, seems another era in Philly poetry ...As our dear friend Bob Creeley would have no doubt said: Onward!Charles Bernstein

from Jules Boykoff
The La Tazza Reading Series is a hotnest of poetic action & Philafriendliness that I have long appreciated. In the weeks after September 11, 2001, I was scheduled to read at La Tazza, thanks to the generous invitation of Frank Sherlock & Greg Fuchs. I remember at the time some people were suggesting that maybe we should take a little break from poetry, that we should suspend the reading for a while. I also remember Frank & Greg nixing that idea and demanding that we press forward with grit & gumption, as it seemed the world needed poetry more than ever. I always appreciated that decision & I look back fondly on that late-September reading as one of my favorites, less for what & how I read, but more for the memories of meeting Frank for the first time (a poet whose writing I greatly admire) as well as many of the other wonderful poets in Philadelphia. Thank you for your courage, determination, & perseverance, but also for your laughter, beer drinking, & your understanding of the need to have fun.--Jules Boykoff

hey frank,i have an interesting history with the series, but that aside, meeting you was certainly a highlight. dare i mention that the venue selection was my idea (hee hee - i just did), and way back when...I made Greg acknowledge me one time for that. This is all to say, I'm a poetry agent & a great fan of yours. I would certainly encourage you to seek my advice if you're looking for new venue (hee hee, again). Even though I used to joke about the poetry crowd's subdued laughter during a reading (akin to the soft, polite clapping of a crowd at a golf tournament), you are certainly keepin' it real. you rock, and so do the folks you bring together.

from Allison Cobb
Wow, I can't believe the La Tazza series is closing after all these years. Philly is losing something crucial that even city-sponsored wireless internet access won't soothe! Frank Sherlock was an amazing curator, bringing in poets from all over the country to introduce them to Philly's vibrant scene, and vice versa. I first met the Philly folks through reading at the La Tazza series, and the simultaneous cohesiveness and diversity of the poetry community there has inspired me ever since. La Tazza, it seemed to me, was a central piece of that. We poets outside Philly also mourn its loss!

from Jennifer Coleman
I'll always be grateful to the La Tazza reading series for introducing me to a whole gang of poets that I very much admire; but the series has meant more to me than simply an introduction to the Philly talent. La Tazza has also been important to me as a model for what a writing community can be: diverse, dedicated, exciting and both serious and fun-loving. From La Tazza and the vivacious, inventive community it gives voice to, I'm continually reminded and inspired to be generous and courageous in engaging the poets around me. I think the La Tazza series is a critical link between poetry communities, both aesthetically and geographically. And though many of the same poets read in other series and venues, La Tazza is distinct in its uniquely Philly character and spirit. For the series to end would be a loss both to the Philly community and to the larger community of innovative poets.

from Buck Downs
Frank has a better track record of presenting poetry as real life rather than literature than anybody I know.

& I'm an out-of-towner & so must be excused of ignorance, but it looks like La Tazza has been the only series in Phila to do this at all lately, and do it without the benefit of a parent institution to boot. The existence of an unaffiliated space in which to work "love's life-giving vulgarity" is not all that big of an emergency to most of the poets I know, but it is eventually if not immediately necessary to anyone who thinks and lives in a city. Frank is one of the relative handful of people I know who has chosen to give that gift to his friends.

That said, if Frank wants to retire or take an extended vacation from this planning nightmare I for one say, why not? A new space, a fresh face, and new names need to be put together on a regular basis, living proof that this thing we call community actually works.

Best of luck to the Next Frank Sherlock!

--Buck D

from Erica Kaufman
reading at la tazza was by far one of my favorite reading experiences. and, my best out-of-town reading experience. i thought the space was wonderful, but what made the space so wonderful was having such a generous host and a crowd of warm, kind people. I think it is a great idea for a series, to have one local poet, and one out-of-towner, as a way of creating community within communities and the atmosphere the attendees of that series create definitely makes for a fostering of poetic bonds. if i were to start a new series, i think i would definitely look to la tazza, frank, and all you philly poets as a model.

from Pattie McCarthy
Dear Frank :Thank you for your years of dedication, good spirits, friendly events, & interesting choices at La Tazza -- which was the most comfortable poetry series I've ever attended. It was also the most love-filled series I've ever read in (I think your introduction the first time I read there nearly made me cry with appreciation) -- & I am so grateful to you for that as well. When we finally decided to move back to Philadelphia, I thought with great relief & joy : & we'll be able to go to La Tazza all the time now. Your contribution to the Philly community has been immense, & I beg you to find a new location & to continue the series -- it must, it simply must go on.yours,Pattie

from Chris McCreary
What has the La Tazza series meant to me? Even as the location has changed over the years from the Highwire to our beloved La Tazza – and even as my life has changed drastically over that same span of time – it’s always been a crucial hub for me socially and artistically, and I’d love to think that the series, or some new mutation of it, will live on somewhere, somehow.

If I sat down and really thought it through, I could come up with a multitude – dozens, probably - of miniature reading reports to share here. But off the top of my head, I remember seeing Carol Mirakove (the night I met her, I’m quite sure) read with Frank at the old space and literally being blown away by the pairing. It was one of those moments where I really thought, yeah, shit’s starting to happen here. And seeing Jenn read with Buck was another one of those great ones… which led to a show by Brett Evans’s band skinverb… which led to a house party at Frank’s (was Chris Stroffolino there eating blueberries? do I really remember a five-year-old scuttling around in the post-midnight mayhem? why was I sitting in a tiny rocking chair toward the end?)… which led to a very, very brutal sunrise… one of many we witnessed during that general era.

By the time the readings moved to LaTazza, many of the original crew had either departed town or were on their way out – Greg Fuchs, Brett, Kevin Varrone, Pattie McCarthy, and others had hit the road, at least for the time being, but it really felt like a crew of regulars congealed in the space at La Tazza and could always be counted on to show up over the years. In fact, I always knew exactly where Don Riggs would be sitting, what he’d be eating, and how the glass of wine would be situated in relation to his plate. As Jenn and I moved into the realm of parenthood and the like, I took great comfort in knowing that, even if I couldn’t get out of the house, I could picture where my friends were and what they were doing! And rather than start to dash off a haphazard list of favorite moments in that space, I’d rather just say how much I appreciated its consistency and Frank’s efforts to keep the ball rolling. Based on what I was seeing the last couple of times I came out to readings there, it looked like a larger core was finally building, with the same faces coming back time and again amid the many one-shot audience members – students coming out to see their friends, maybe, but then actually coming back week after week, which was how it should’ve worked all along, no? And that to me suggests that there’s still a hunger out there for this sort of series.

from Cathleen Miller
Since I have lived in Philadelphia, poetry has been a very important part of my life. To have a regular series that includes a social element is really important. The series at La Tazza brought some great people into my life...people who care not only about the academic and philosophical, but those who are willing to put their words into action. I am happy to be a part of this community of poets and activists. I hope that the series continues in another space. I would really miss the poetry and the after-poetry conversations.

I hope that is good enough to post. I somehow feel like no matter what I write, it wouldn't be adequate praise. Frank has done a really great job putting together cohesive readings that are engaging and fun and risky. He deserves much thanks and much praise.
Talk to you soon.
love, Cathleen

from Carol Mirakove
My first reading in an away-from-home city was in the La Tazza series, then the Highwire series. Greg Fuchs and Kyle Conner were generous enough to invite me to read with none other than Frank Sherlock. This was in July 1998. That reading was without a doubt one of my most important experiences as a poet. Having come from DC, a city with a lively and dedicated poetry community, my sense of conversation and camaraderie in poetry was expanded tremendously that night, as I met Frank, Kyle, and Greg, as well as Chris McCreary, Jenn McCreary, Pattie McCarthy, Kevin Varrone, Barbara Cole, and several other people I was too drunk to remember. There was a big dance party late that night at someone's apartment. Greg had arranged for me and my traveling compañero to stay at his friend's apartment. We went to bed at 7am. And I took my cue from Greg, then, that a poet could make a home in multiple cities, as he then was splitting time between Philadelphia and Brooklyn. To this day, I feel at home whenever I am in Philadelphia, a city whose center is, for me, the La Tazza reading series. Last summer Frank granted me the great pleasure of guest-hosting Allison Cobb and CE Putnam at La Tazza, a privilege by which I gained only a sliver of insight into the tremendous effort that goes into running a reading series. I hope you have felt at least a sliver of my tremendous appreciation for all that you have contributed to the poetry communities in Philadelphia and beyond, Frank. Viva la Tazza!
Love, Carol [Mirakove]

from Bob Perelman
Dear Frank,I just want you to know that for me your La Tazza series was a central fact of the poetry scene here. All the classes, webcasts, blogs, and books in the world don't have anything like the same intensity of social information as a good poetry series. Thanks very much for your labors; they were appreciated. And, hey, if a new location presents itself, don't be shy about starting a new series!best,Bob

from Ethel Rackin
The La Tazza series has helped to bring so many of us poets and lovers of poetry together. It's made me feel good about being a Philadelphia poet and a poet period. It's created links between us and poets in other cities. Memories include the packed house reading of Samuel Delaney. Tom Devaney's reading in which we all surrounded Tom who stood near the bar as he read everything announcement-style without a mic. Frank's intros. All the readings I wish I could have attended but couldn't. Drinking and talking to Don Riggs who ordered a full dinner with a nice chianti. Talking with you (Conrad) about astrology, poetics, politics against the sofa wall. On and on...Thanks to everyone who made it happen. Especially Frank for keeping it alive.Ethel

from Kaia Sand
The La Tazza series is very important to me, and how I look at poetry. No white-cubed rooms, insular walls...this is a reading series that brings poetry into a lively space, one where not everyone is there for the poetry, and that keeps it interesting, exciting. Ambient voices mix in. The readings always seemed part of the fabric of all the bar's action. Another series that has served that very important purpose for a short time (maybe years 2000-2002?) was one that Susana Gardner ran in Patriot's Cafe (poets read with an American Flag backdrop) in Fairfax, Virginia. I have many dear memories of La Tazza Readings. Susana Gardner driving us to a reading for Jules after our car window shattered in DC. Driving up with Jules Boykoff and Tom Orange to see Jen Coleman read. The fabulous La Tazza component of the truly invigorating August 2003 Philly Sound extravaganza. The time Frank so generously paired me with Samuel Delaney (!!!)--that was absolutely thrilling-- for a reading. Greg Fuchs and Frank's introductions, which were such animated readings of the poems. The conversations pre- and post reading. The post-reading report emails, which I look forward to, and read, whether I received them in Washington, DC, Southern Maryland, or now, Walla Walla, Washington. Those reports always helped me feel vicariously like a Philly poet. Anyway. I add these comments to assert that La Tazza is absolutely essential to my sense of poetry in the current moment. So...Frank--thank you!


from Gary Sullivan
I was fortunate enough to get to read twice at La Tazza: once with Mytili Jagannathan and once with Sofia Memon. Both nights I got to meet many people I had never met before--including the two, both wonderful, readers. At the reading with Mytili, Frank gave me literally the most thorough, incredible introduction anyone has ever given me--I was kind of embarrassed at how seriously he took me and my so called "work." Talking with others who had read at La Tazza, it became clear that that was pretty much par for the course for Frank. I don't remember everyone I spoke with after the reading, but I do remember an interesting conversation with Mytili--who gave such a wonderful, punchy reading--about an artist she knew who was using those Amar Chitra Katha Indian religious comics as the basis of their visual art. A long, fun night out drinking with Tom Devaney after the reading.Before the reading with Sofia, me, Nada, Mytili, Frank and Sofia all met to eat at a great restaurant right near La Tazza. I felt almost like I was a long lost brother who had come back to town. Sofia read a great batch of poems that night, including a very sweet, funny kind of epithalamium she had written for a friend. Conrad was fabulous as Mozart in "Mozart & Salieri" opposite my (duh) Salieri. After the reading, me, Nada, Conrad, Alicia Askenase, and Hassen went over to the place where Conrad was staying and we all drank until pizza arrived. I think we may have eaten some pizza, too. I just remember drinking, smoking (outside), and laughing a lot. The next day, Nada & I went to the museum with Conrad--a great day, especially for Nada, who had never seen so much Duchamp live in one place.It was a great space--heck, the bartender evengave me a free beer after the first reading because she'd enjoyed it (so she said, and even if she was lying, it was a free beer!)--and a really great series. I got to meet many wonderful people I might not have otherwise: Conrad, Frank, Mytili, Sofia, Alicia, Hassen, Chris & Jen McCreary, etc., etc. Plus, what a convenient excuse to get on a train to Philly! Which I had never visited before participating in the series.It's sad to hear that La Tazza won't be having readings anymore. I imagine there are many people who will miss it terribly.

from Rodrigo Toscano
The La Tazza reading series is legendary. A favorite destination for serious poets all along the eastern corrider (and beyond), it joins that category of now-defunct series, like the Ear Inn and Double Happiness in NYC, Wordsworth Books in Boston, where what happens, from week to week, becomes the very bedrock from which the Local Scene is constructed. In no other place have I found the local poets more ready to engage what they just heard; to celebrate it, to critique it, but most of all, to keep the ball rolling. We can only hope that the series' brainchild extrordinaire, Frank Sherlock, finds a way to transpose the series to another locale.

-Rodrigo Toscano

from Kevin Varrone
I’ll say only this: when Pattie McCarthy and I dreamt of finding a way to traverse the Mason-Dixon and make it back to Philadelphia, we’d rehearse our cadre of gravitational forces: The Italian Market, Franco & Luigi’s Pizzaria, LaTazza. One can go to any number of readings (in Philly and Elsewhere) and hear talk of communities and poetry among the people, or one could go to LaTazza. And what better testament to the series than the way it ended: good poems, good friends, good drink, and Greg Fuchs materializing from thin air (if only he had on that paper mache monster’s head I remember from the wee hours of a morning long ago, singing and dancing to The New Birth Brass Band’s “Jesus on the Main Line”). Leaving LaTazza will be like when they moved Rocky’s statue from the Art Museum to The Spectrum--a definite sadness--but the stallion will ride again, I’m sure. Thanks, Frank.
Kevin Varrone

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