Check out our pictures from the event and follow the links for more eyewitness accounts...
Gallery Neptune Artist/Owner, Elyse Harrison
Caryn warms up the crowd and introduces the first act...
Andrew Lundwall then shares some great poetry against a surreal playground backdrop.
Jamelah recounts a childhood memory and entrances the audience with her cool intensity.
Elyse & Levi concentrating on poetry
John Lawson tells a clever tale of a literary mystery that spans all genres, ages and intersections.
firecracker looks on
WIREMAN, blasts out "Kid Stuff"
Levi shares his childhood literary secret... as well as a few moving poems.
The Audience, Amazed.
Star Jewel Smith and The Giving Tree
Doreen prepares to connect us with words.
Michael Boettcher shares a clever villanelle and reads a few of his pieces from "The Furnace"
Lightning Rod... lost in a literary fantasy.
Andrew & Star
Taking a break
Doreen, Wireman & Lenny
L-Rod offers a home remedy
Doreen & Lightning Rod perform their collaborative piece, "You Make"
A Happy Crowd
Jamelah acts out the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst Coming out from behind the camera One last glimpse of Gallery Neptune See more pictures here
Read more about the evening here and here.
Jamelah acts out the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst
Coming out from behind the camera
One last glimpse of Gallery Neptune
See more pictures here
"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
See the Poster.
Read another review.
Pictures from the Rehearsal.
More Pictures from NY and Rehearsal.
While LitKicks is devoted to free expression, we also like to suggest a few stylistic guidelines that will help your article "fit in" at LitKicks:
- Keep your articles short and interesting, and avoid dull academic language. Don't hesitate to write something personal, or funny, or deeply unusual. Just don't be boring.
- Readers like facts. If you are writing an author biography, it is a good idea to start with birth and end with death (or with the author's latest novels, which is sometimes not much different). Whether you are are covering a person, a book, a place, or a concept, try to allow hard facts to form the structure of your piece as much as possible, so that your own personal opinions or ideas will emerge naturally and subtly from the bedrock of information. With that said, please *do* let your writing express your own personality as much as possible. It is by writing about something other than yourself or your opinions that you can most effectively tell us about yourself and your opinions.
- LitKicks does not believe in cluttering up texts with endless footnotes, citations, bibliographies, etc. We're here to have fun; the people who work at the Library of Congress get paid and have to be fastidious, but we don't. NOTE: if footnotes are absolutely essential to your postmodern Nicholson-Baker/Dave Eggers-like style, fine -- but no bibliographies, still.
- We hate pompous, pseudo-authoritative statements like "Thomas Pynchon is one of the five most important writers of the second half of the twentieth century". Or "Robert Pirsig is the greatest prose stylist since John Dos Passos". How can we believe any statements like these to be valid? We all like making lists, and we all have our own lists, none more valid than any other. And why is it necessary to put down Tom Robbins in order to praise Robert Pirsig? There's plenty of room on the pantheon -- just tell us which writers you do like, and why, instead of obsessing over who gets to stand in which order.
With all that said, the truth is that any of the above rules can be broken, if the results justify this. Just try not to break all of them at once.
- The Beat Generation Postage Stamp Series
- Beat News, wherein Levi pontificated freely about whatever bizarre ideas were possessing him at the moment
- Sherri Hoye's extensive Beat Bibliography
- Levi's interview with John Cassady
- Levi auditions for a starring
role in the film version of 'On The Road'
- Andrew Burnett's Cassady-esque travelogue, 'Neal's Denver'
- April 97 Tribute to Allen Ginsberg
- August 97 Tribute to William S. Burroughs
Another highlight was the marathon reading itself. 'Big Sur' has enough chapters that most people were able to read their first choices, and I selected Chapter Nine. It was a wonderful honor to intone these great words into a mic as the David Amram Trio jammed behind -- a special perk for the New York corner of this four-city event.
I also learned something I didn't realize about LitKicks this weekend, when several people I hadn't seen in months said to me "Why the hell aren't you updating your Beat News page?" And "Why didn't you announce this reading in Beat News?"
The truth is, having introduced message boards on LitKicks in January, I felt it might be time to retire the Beat News section of the site. I introduced message boards so that anybody could post to the site at any time. Beat News is not "postable", and so it seemed old hat to me. I want the message boards at the center of the LitKicks experience, and I figured I could express anything I personally needed to express there instead of here.
But I was surprised to hear that several people don't accept this reasoning, and in fact think I'm just being lazy in neglecting this page. Which is probably true. So, I'm going to try to stop ignoring this page. Hey, at least I wrote something today.
But even as I hid out, I never forgot my ultimate goal, which was to create a forum for many diverse voices. It's taken me a long time to get my community publishing system off the ground -- partly because as a technical architect and a Java programmer I needed to put a lot of thought into how to do this right. I've got a long way to go, but I'm ready to launch a few simple message boards. These are pretty basic -- the innovative stuff is what I hope will come next.
In order to add this functionality I've had to move Literary Kicks from the server host that has been running it for years to a new host that specializes in Java servlet integration. If you are linking this site to the old URL, "http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn", please change it to the permanent URL, http://www.litkicks.com, instead. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the folks at Charm.net for giving me such great service for six and a half years. I picked them in 1994 because I liked their name. Since then the internet has grown into the biggest cultural force of its time. It also produced a lot of hysterical investment activity that has now resulted in a minor stock crash. The Pets.com sock puppet was born, and the Pets.com sock puppet has died. But good companies like Charm.net stick around and gradually, intelligently evolve and grow. Litkicks is trying to do the same. So please check these new boards out, and please don't hesitate to create a member name and be among the first to say hi!
Oh yeah -- happy Martin Luther King Day, and happy 2001.
It is true, though, that I've been avoiding my responsibilities as owner of this site. I've been going through a sort of dark night of the soul recently, and dealing with some heavy things in my life that I don't want to talk too much about, except to put it in brief: my marriage broke up last year, around the beginning of September. Meg and I are both doing fine, and the kids are too. But it's a heavy thing to go through and to be honest I just haven't cared about Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg or hypertext poetry or web-based fiction much lately.
I'm sure I'll get my enthusiasm back, and in the meantime I've been trying to think of ways to make Literary Kicks feel newer and more exciting, since it really hasn't been redesigned or rethought since it's birth more than five years ago (wow, it has been a long time).
I haven't crystallized my ideas much yet, but I know I want to start putting up some streaming video (yeah, I bought an iMac, tangerine, what a great machine). I also want to move beyond the Beat Generation and start covering a greater diversity of styles and genres. Most importantly, I want to open up the site to contributions from others, and turn it from a solo act into more of an ensemble performance.
Anyway, that's all coming at some time in the future ... unless it isn't, in which case it's not. As for what's happening out in the big world out there these days ... well, here are a few things that recently caught my eye.
1. Best new beat-related book so far this millennium: "Poems for the Nation", edited by Allen Ginsberg with Andy Clausen and Eliot Katz. This is a book of current political poems Ginsberg was putting together at the time he died. It features poems by Tuli Kupferkerg, Eileen Myles, Janine Pommy Vega, Anne Waldman, Amiri Baraka and many more. One reason I like the book is the personal enthusiasm of one of it's editors, the poet Eliot Katz, who is a true modern-day left-wing activist who told me excitedly about the book one Sunday on the Lower East Side as he ran from a poetry reading to a secret meeting of provacateurs who were planning to crash a World Bank/International Money Fund meeting in Washington D.C. Another reason I like this book is that it's small and quick to read and costs only six bucks (I'm sick of Beat books that cost $40.00). You can buy a copy here.
2. A sad recent death: Terence McKenna, a popular and much admired social critic of the neo-psychedelic school, in the tradition of Carlos Castaneda, Timothy Leary, etc. I wasn't personally familiar with his work (I've never been into psychedelics myself -- I took magic mushrooms once but nothing too special happened) but I've heard from many that McKenna was a truly original thinker and a very nice person. It's very sad that he died in the middle of a healthy happy life in Hawaiian seclusion, a victim of cancer at the age of 52.
3. On to the living: the great iconoclast Paul Krassner, who has been editor of the hippie propaganda rag "The Realist" for longer than I've been alive, now has a web presence. Krassner has done some interesting things with "The Realist" over the years -- for instance, he got in big trouble after the Kennedy assassination by accusing Lyndon B. Johnson of fucking Kennedy's bullethole on Air Force One. And I hear that was one of the tamer articles. Well, we all need a little realism, so catch a rare New York City appearance by Krassner, if you can, at an Earth Night party at the Bitter End on April 22 -- it's an all-night poetry jam also featuring David Amram, Bob Holman, Frank Messina and many others.
April is the cruelest month. Still, I believe things are looking up. You know, I don't believe in Jesus any more than I believe in magic mushrooms, but Easter is coming soon, and Patti Smith has a new CD out, and it's time to think for me about resurrection. So check back with me soon and hopefully I'll have an all-new, all-different Literary Kicks here to show you. Or maybe not.
I was also sorry to hear of the ailing health of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, who announced that he will no longer be creating new strips. "Peanuts" was a part of America's post-war countercultural consciousness as much as "Catch-22", "Cuckoo's Nest" or even "Howl". I always thought the little kids would have grown up to be beatniks ... Schroeder would have moved on from Beethoven to Lennon and Dylan, and the way Linus always quoted scripture, I'm sure he would have gotten into I Ching and Zen. Charles Schulz never used the strip to air his political or societal beliefs -- but hey, we knew what he meant when he named the bird "Woodstock".
The new millennium is coming ... and if Charlie Brown will really be gone, I think the 1950's are now truly over. I wonder what will come next?
Happy New Year everybody! Literary Kicks will be changing a lot soon. See you on the other side ...
I knew my friend Brian Hassett knew how to put on good poetry events, so I asked him to get involved, and with his help we secured a prime spot, the legendary folk-rock club The Bitter End, in downtown Manhattan. The setlist kept growing until I had assembled such an amazing group of talented poets, web writers, jazz musicians, haiku masters, spoken-word artists, punk rock legends and Beat storytellers, I could barely believe it myself. I spent much of the last few weeks running around the city like an idiot, trying to organize posters, hotel rooms, musicians ... in fact some friends report seeing me walk into a fire hydrant in a confused daze, scribbling in a notebook and yelling into a cell phone. I have no memory of this but I believe it. Anyway, Wednesday night July 21 finally rolled around, and it was time to get on stage. Here's how the night went down:
Vermont writer Marie Countryman opened with some self-revelatory poems, followed by an excellent short story, 'The Shock of a Feather' by novelist David Alexander. Next, web writer Xander Mellish read the beginning of her short story 'Extraordinary' to the tune of a Miles Davis recording. Xander was followed by book editor Holly George-Warren, who read the introduction to her just-published Rolling Stone Book of the Beats.
The evening then started to veer towards the outer orbits with an amazing microtonal bebop poetry performance by Bayonne candy store poet Herschel Silverman, accompanied by legendary jazz composer David Amram on piano and a vocalist named Jessica whose full name I'd like to know if anybody can send it to me. Things got a little more gentle when Briggs Nisbet read some of her California nature poems, and this was followed by two sublime haiku readings featuring, first, Beat scholar Walter Raubicheck and then Cor van den Heuvel, editor of the new 'Norton Haiku Anthology', both poets accompanied by Daniel Srebnick on sax.
Smug.com's talented editor Leslie Harpold then read an excellent short story, 'Princess Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall', about strip poker and skin types, and this was followed by what was possibly the evening's most unique moment: a spontaneous spoken-word performance by John Cassady, son of Beat legend Neal Cassady. John had never visited New York City before, so a lot of people had come down specifically to see how Neal's son had turned out and what he looked like, and not only the Village Voice but even the New Yorker had listed the fact of his upcoming stage debut. John is a nice guy but also a "regular guy" like you or me, and so I was in a bit of suspense wondering what all he'd say when he stepped up to the mike. As the Mighty Manatees (a great jam band from Delaware County, our house band for the nite) kicked into a soft bluesy jazz riff behind him, John started telling stories, and fifteen minutes later John was riffing left and right on an unpublished letter he'd found in his father's papers, and the "John Cassady Rap" was becoming legend before my eyes. John then hooked up his guitar and sang Chuck Berry's "Nadine" as a tribute to the Dad he'd been missing for the last thirty-one years.
The show went on -- Robert Burke Warren stepped up to the mike and ripped into "Rave On" by Buddy Holly, then we all took a break, and then the David Amram Trio went onstage to sing "Pull My Daisy" and jam. I read a short story of my own, and then I introduced the enigmatic webmaster Mark Thomas, creator of Sorabji.com, who played a beautiful rendition of Philip Glass's 'Wichita Vortex Sutra' on piano, which was a great segue into a moment of deep literary exploration with Wichita/Cherry Valley blues/bop poet Charles Plymell who read an extremely affecting fable about John F. Kennedy Jr. as the Manatees, John Cassady and others played behind him.
Next was Brian Hassett with a piece from his upcoming screenplay, "Don't Be Denied", and after this began the main "I'm not worthy" part of the evening for me, as I introduced three people in a row whom I seriously respect for their seminal artistic legacies, and for their moral contributions to the thriving independent writing/publishing scene of today. First was Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, who turned the lights low and read in a soft voice as a calming humming sound played on the PA, then Richard Hell a personal hero of mine for having had the good sense to invent punk rock in the early 70's, and then having the talent to write the excellent novel ' Go Now ' in the 90's. Hell kicked off with a few short verses, told us "I never cared about that whole beatnik thing anyway" (fair enough), and then recited his unique poem "Weather," which contains 12 different alterations of a single poem, each growing in its own unique direction. Hell was followed by Lower East Side poetry hero Bob Holman, who years ago helped start the spoken-word revolution with his friends at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe in the East Village, and now helps to run the excellent About.poetry website (among many other things). Holman took the band with him on a bizarre "Peter and the Wolf"-style instrument-vocalization jam that had subtle moments and also occasionally blasted into some excellent kick-ass screaming and yelling, Holman-style.
The show continued: Meg Wise-Lawrence delivered a smoky, snaky performance of her prose-poem 'Twelve Beginnings ... One End' accompanied by avant-garde blues pianist Toby Kasavan, and this was followed by a beautiful moment contrasting Kentucky poet Ron Whitehead, who read his powerful "I Will Not Bow Down" among other things, and Icelandic web innovator Birgitta Jonsdottir Next up was a thoughtful language poem by Aaron Howard, a light-jazz-toned excerpt from Breathing Room by Christian Crumlish (the only one besides Bob Holman to show up in a zoot suit), an inspiring and lyrical reading by poet Breath Cox, some fresh and funny moments with John Grady (whose "New York Bagel" is one of my favorites), and a closing performance by avant-garde/surrealist Gregory Severance. With no more poetry to read for the night, the Manatees, David Amram and John Cassady stayed onstage and closed out the night, appropriately enough, with a couple of Dead tunes, 'Bertha' and 'Going Down the Road Feeling Bad'.I know everybody who was there enjoyed it -- in fact there was a certain fascinating edge of insanity to the whole event that has made many of us, myself included, think back to that night and wonder exactly what was in the air that made it all so unusual. Anyway, thanks to all the performers and everybody who helped, especially Brian Hassett, and thanks to the Bitter End for letting us own the dive for the night. Biggest thanks and apologies go to a few patient poets who couldn't stay out late enough to get their own time on stage, and who were gracious about missing their moments at the mic. It was definitely crazy to think we could fit 30 performers onstage in a single night -- we learned a lot and will know better next time.
Chaos reigned at many moments during the event, but then I think chaos has always been a friend to poetry, and this night proved it to me.
-- Levi Asher
-- July 28 1999
The Living End!
by Marie Countryman
Brian Hassett writes ...
The Literary Kicks Summer Poetry Happening