"So you better get this party started"
P!nk at a poetry reading? You better believe it. As the evening kicked off with the words "I'm Comin' Up" blasting through the Bowery Poetry Club, there was no doubt that this would be a night of raw energy and talent. At just a few minutes past 7, the club was already filled with people and the performers were ready to roll. Levi Asher of our very own LitKicks and Janan Platt of AlienFlower took the stage to welcome everyone and gave a brief overview of what would be taking place. Janan and Levi immediately set the tone for the evening by reading their collaborative piece, "What You're Looking For", a steady stream of seemingly unconnected phrases and thoughts read together simultaneously. As the piece ended, Lorraine Dechter gave a short follow-up to the poem, explaining that the words and phrases were culled from internet search keywords used to find Alienflower. Lorraine also read an interesting cut-up piece based on her and Janan's observations of New York City.
Lorraine introduced the first of the LitKicks Action Poets, the ever-talented Jamelah. As each poet took the stage, they were handed a flower to add to a vase placed in front of the microphone. Jamelah read her very poignant piece, "September 11th Birthday Girl" and immediately had the crowd hooked. She then read two selections from her new chapbook "Sketches of a Return Journey". The first, "underneath the audio", was a slice of reality taken from a father-daughter relationship. The choice of words and descriptive language in this piece brought it to life for the audience and you felt as if you were there witnessing the scene. "the water was moving too fast" was a haunting narrative of an inevitable goodbye. Jamelah's writing is simply beautiful and her performance kicked off the Action Poets series with a lyrical intensity I've yet to see matched.
As Levi introduced Litnrod11, the LitKicks faction who had attended the previous night's rehearsal knew they were in for a treat, as they had already witnessed his cool delivery of the poems "The Last Time I Was in New York" and "Circus of Dreams" as well as his devilishly humorous, "The Perfect Taco". I'm sure I wasn't the only one who found myself repeating the unforgettable refrain "On to Chicago" taken from the first piece that he read. The crowd in the club was no less impressed with his performance and sat perfectly still as he read "The Poet's Dirty Socks". As he finished up with "The Ballad of Dori Danger", he then introduced her, our own Doreen Peri.
Doreen took the stage and read the reply to "The Poet's Dirty Socks", which was a perfect response, perfectly presented with her rich voice and fluid movements. Next was "Installation of a Deadbolt" a chilling and passionate piece that she read with a wide range of emotion. These emotions were further heightened by Litnrod's flute accompaniment. Doreen closed with "Guess Who I Slept With Last Night", the tale of a nighttime visitor that had the audience giggling with the realization that it was in fact "that damned mosquito".
Billectric was up next, and kept everyone laughing with his tale of "How I Found LitKicks". His wry delivery and honest smile added such a personality to this performance, there was no one in the place that could help but have a good time watching him. He clutched a bizarre looking flower as he read. It was truly reminiscent of a "Laugh-In" dream sequence. He followed up by performing his own arrangement of Shakespeare's 18th Sonnet, which he dedicated to Doreen and Litnrod. As Bill sang and strummed the guitar, we got to see what a truly versatile performer he really was. As Bill left the stage, an enthusiastic table of LitKicks poets, all amazed at what they had just seen, greeted him wide smiles.
It was then turn for me to get up on stage and close the "Action Poets" segment of the show. I took the stage and warned the audience that someday their random words and conversation bits may one day end up as a part of one of my twisted poetry series. To demonstrate, I read a few short poems including "edit me". To illustrate the Action Poetry-style of poetic collaboration, I then read the call-and answer-pair of "I Sold my Summer" (written by jota) and my subsequent response to that poem, "I Stole My Summer". I then had a mild panic attack set to words with "Frenzy", which I followed with a poem to my father, "Inheritance". I then called Levi onstage to accompany my final two pieces with quietly played guitar. "Floor" was a short descriptive piece that had recently started a lengthy Action Poetry thread. I then ended with a dual language poem, "Together". Backed by the faint strumming of guitar, I hope the feeling of unabashed love in this piece was apparent, no translation needed.
The California poets then took the show in a new direction as Lorraine Dechter read several inspiring and lyrical pieces. Her heartfelt delivery of these well-written lines showed the skill of a true performer. Her cut-up piece "The Beginning of a Childhood Fairy Tale" was a bittersweet account of a young child who loses his father and was read with the tenderness only a mother could give. Two selections, "Woman" and "Orion , were sung a capella and Lorraine held the attention of everyone with the strength of her voice.
Janan Platt, co-host of the evening and creator of AlienFlower, read a few of her pieces, including "Flowa" (the New York city pronunciation of "Flower", she explained) and "Woman with the Lawn Ornaments." Janan's subtle interpretation of these works allowed the words to speak for themselves, especially the fabulous wordplay of "Flowa" in which fantastic descriptions create an dream-like image.
One of the highlights of the evening was when Levi came back to the stage to read three excerpts from his novel The Summer of the Mets (which will be available in paperback later this year). Although I had read the novel last summer, hearing Levi's voice retell the story was like nothing else. As Levi read, Litnrod played gentle melodies on his flute and Lorraine provided accompaniment on guitar; the quiet music set the perfect backdrop for the many moods of the story. The first passage introduced the main character, Chris, and was told in an innocent and honest fashion. As he recounted the summer vacation boredom of a teenage boy, heads nodded in recognition. In the second excerpt, we got an even deeper sense of Chris's internal feelings as he finds his first love. Mr. Asher's description of the excitement and amazement of new love was instantly familiar. The dialogue in each section was superbly read and the mellow sound of Levi's voice only made the story more lifelike. As he finished with a vivid account of a single inning during the 1986 World Series, you could feel the anticipation in the room as everyone waited to hear which way the game would go -- even those who already knew the outcome. Each piece worked very well alone, but together they really made for a powerful presentation and I'm sure The Summer of the Mets already has quite a following.
John S. Hall then took the stage quietly and timidly ... but as is often the case, looks were deceiving. He read many hilarious and high-energy poems like "Nickels for Ned", and he shared an alternate take on the "Mean People Suck" bumper sticker. His stage presence and demeanor only heightened the humor of the writing. After getting the green light to read two more pieces, John read "The President" (formerly titled, "The Mayor") and "The Miracle of Childbirth", prefacing them by saying "These next two pieces are made up almost entirely of curses". These last two were impressive on shock value alone, however even beneath all of the profanity; the audience felt a sense of awe at his ability to express so much in the use of just a few repeated words. As John S. Hall left the stage, we all felt as if we'd just witnessed a hurricane and lived to tell about it.
We were all then treated to some music by Lauren Agnelli, a talented and accomplished musician. Lauren started the evening most respectfully with a tribute to Elvis (who had died on this date, August 16, 25 years earlier), "A Fool Such as I". Lauren also performed "Sand Castle Song," and the raucous "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad,". She then sang a beautiful selection, "She's Gonna Change", joined by her friend Ken Anderson on vocals and tambourine. She closed by sharing her short poem "Spring Girl with a Song", a piece from the voice of Persephone.
Tom Goodkind of the Washington Squares joined Lauren on the stage, along with Billy Ficca of the seminal 70's punk band Television, to cap off the night with a long awaited Washington Squares reunion. The Squares were an excellent closer for the show, singing "Charcoal", "Greenback Dollar", "You Can't Kill Me", and the Civil War themed ballad, "Two Brothers". The chemistry of this group was apparent and they played with such heartfelt intensity that no one could resist moving along to the music. They closed with "Goodnight Irene", inviting anyone from the audience to come onstage and be a part of the action.
Before we knew it, the show was over and the bouquet on stage was finally complete, just as it wouldn't have been the same without each individual flower, the show wouldn't have been the same without each individual performer who contributed. It was a great night filled with a wide variety of styles and voices, all coming together to make for an intriguing and entertaining display of talent.
Jamelah, Litnrod, Doreen and Billectric
Litnrod on stage
Firecracker and Jamelah
Firecracker and Levi on stage
Litnrod and Doreen
Billectric and Levi's Dad
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Pictures from the Rehearsal.
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