Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Poet Steve Shavel added to Forbes Library Reading on Wednesday October 1st. John Ashberry gives free reading at UMass on Wed. 9/11

As posted previously, I'm putting together a poetry reading Wed. Oct. 1st at 7PM, at the Forbes Library in Northampton, loosely related to my public poetry postering project, Drive-By Poets. This is the first of six Wednesdays of poetry readings at the library, each curated by a different person. Alyssa Lovell, Allegra Mira, and now Steve Shavel will join me to read our original poems aloud. Steve lives in Northampton. His poem, "Unh." was selected by Heather McHugh for a Publishing Online anthology. How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold is his first book. I'll post a Steve poem here soon.

Amazon says: Clumsy acrobats tumbling through the circuses of philosophy, architecture, politics, religion and just about anything else you can think of, Steve Shavel's wild meditations drift and whirl with spastic brilliance among language's most earnest and playful coincidences.

Free, Wed. 9/11, 8PM at Memorial Hall (next to the chapel by the pond) on UMass Amherst campus. "John Ashbery is the author of twenty-seven books of poetry, including Some Trees (1956), which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award. His recent books are Collected Poems 1956-1987 (2008), Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (2007), and A Worldly Country (2007). His many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1980."

I discovered Ashberry in a class I took at UCLA called "Reading Difficult Writing." Later, he befriended my favorite living poet James Tate, recently cited by Silver Jew David Berman as his favorite as well....turns out David and I both had Tate as a professor in our days at UMass and were equally ensnared. Tate and Ashberry started writing a lot more like each other, a positive development for both as they reeled in each other's excesses. It's validating to the coherence of my taste when aritists, writers, musicians, etc. whose work I love end up meeting and getting along and even working together. It's like the dreams where people from different times and contexts non-sensically appear together, except in cases like Tate and Ashberry it makes sense. Mark Kozelek and Rickie Lee Jones amazingly collaborated for a few shows at Cafe Largo in LA after Rickie Lee was handed a Kozelek mix for a road trip. Rickie fell in love with his music on the trip and contacted him. The shows were stunning.

When I was 10 or so, Marvel Comics launched a comic book called "What If...." where these sorts of unions happened, but outside of the carefully integrated Marvel Universe in which all characters existed in real time and space even between different titles. The Marvel and DC Comics worlds collided in an oversized comic book called The Battle Of The Century. Seeing Spiderman and Superman on the cover was as close to nirvana as I had ever come.

When I moved to Amherst from Chestertown MD in 1976, the first thing I did was figure out where in town to get new comic books as they came out. In Maryland it had been The P&E News Agency, which stood for Paul and Elizabeth; no relation to the restaurant in Northampton (though I have noticed names follow me around whenever I move.) P&E had a sign up "Nice to look at, easy to hold, pick it up we consider it sold." They were serious. I had to make my selections carefully. If I was going to take a chance on a new title, say Howard The Duck, I had to be ready to commit my 30 cents before I picked it up. I was immersed in the Marvel universe and paid close attention to continuity in and between comics. Marvel had a clever reward for busting them on errors called a "No Prize" which was really just the bragging rights of having the error acknowledged in print along with your name. I shook my head in disbelief and disgust when I saw Iron Man changing into costume incorrectly in an issue of Marvel Team-Up. The MTU writer was different than the Iron Man proper writer and had not done his homework. I wrote the letter, asking for a No-Prize, and couldn't believe it when the first comic I bought at Augie's Tobacco Shop in Amherst was the one pictured below, containing my letter! This was the first clue I had that the outside world was penetrable and that I was a part of it.

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