Sunday, August 27, 2006


Kangster boys

...are sexy boys. Check it.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Anthemic Reflections: Homeward Bound--Part 1

Note: the following entry was originally conceived as a single entry, but it's grown to such a length that I think I may be better off breaking it up into two, maybe even three sections. I'd even considered drafting it for this space, then fishing it out as an article, but I get the sense that if it ever takes article form, it will have to be heavily edited. Consider it a draft. At present, it is incomplete--there will be more to come in the next few days. my thoughts turn homeward:

This will be a long post. There is much to cover. I left the United States to accompany my wife in her pursuit of a PhD in Geophysics in Sydney, Australia, on February 25, 1999. In September, very close to the fifth anniversary of September 11th, I will return to the United States of America. In the ensuing time, I have spent all of two weeks on American soil, when I returned to act as best man for my close friend, John Arnold. A lot has occurred in those seven and a half years. The first major news story I vividly remember from Australia is Columbine. The news has rarely, if ever, looked so benign since that day. I could say lots, but I think many who come to this blog are already quite familiar with my political point of view, so I'm hoping, in this post, to focus a few of those thoughts as I think about what it means to return to the United States. I need to do this, because I need to think seriously on what it means to be a poet within the United States in these times.

I want to make something clear, before I move on: I am a pacifist in principle, though perfectly willing to concede that there have been wars that may well have been unavoidable in the pursuit of human liberty. I freely admit my weaknesses in the area of forensics, and am regularly known to put the debate in these terms: war, when phrased in terms of aggregate numbers and poorly defined ideology, makes no sense to me. If the basis for a war is ideological, I distrust it, and if the justification for same treats those human lives lost in the course of that war as means to an unrealized end, I have difficulty comprehending the foundational arguments for that war. On the other hand, I respond well to practical measures, to measurable ends, and to real worth being assigned individual life--no matter of what nationality. I could, on this basis, delve a bit into the rationale behind opposition to the current conflicts in the Middle East, but truth be told, I feel like the arguments against these wars are more than adequately represented online, and I suspect any argument I could make along those lines would suffer somewhat from my disinterest in military matters, and would thus suffer in comparison to those who are better informed in those areas. In other words, I'm not out to convince with this post: I merely wish to collect my own thoughts, in the hopes that I might better understand my own individual path forward, in a time and a place in which I feel it necessary to give voice to these issues. And a voice--one in over six billion--is all I really feel I have to offer this debate--so it is around voice that I feel it necessary to focus these thoughts.

At the core of this debate, as I see it, is a necessary engagement of the one human capacity I most trust--though that trust has, in recent years, suffered some serious challenges--and that capacity is communication. This same capacity, not coincidentally, lies at the center of my own sense of the aesthetic: those artifacts that fail to convey some message--no matter of what nature--to the recipient are, in my view, quite simply put, failed artifacts. They may well explore some important aspect of the medium being used, thus proving inaccessible to a recipient who is not well versed in the medium under scrutiny, and they may better communicate at some future point in time, when "common" understanding of that medium is more thorough, but insofar as an aesthetic takes into account the volatile element of context, they fail. There's a good chance that much of what I have written fails. I'm not adverse to that, and I feel it a risk all communication must take in order to advance our common dialogue, but as a member of the audience, if an artifact does not somehow "speak" to me, I cannot make an argument for its beauty.

I can, and do, accept that the fault may lie in me, but the point is that my sense of beauty is intimately tied up with my sense of the communicable. Beauty communicates itself. It is a message. There is a sender, and a receiver. It must engage a medium, and it must be conveyed through a channel. Absent any of those elements, it fails, because it does not communicate. Understand, this is not about some universal sense of beauty: there is no grasping after an artifact that speaks to all people in the same way involved in these assertions. I am simply stating my own sense that beauty is inextricable from the manner and means by which it communicates itself. I suppose, at base, this really isn't so different from the assertion that, in attempting to separate form and content, we lose something central to the artifact under scrutiny.

In the last twenty-four hours, I have received two such artifacts--videos--that I think address some of my central concerns regarding current events, both decidedly "pop" in strategy and aim. The first--and, I think, the more "manipulative" (in as value-neutral a sense as that word is capable of at this point in its history)--is a video sent to me by my wife: Green Day's Wake Me Up When September Ends. The second is a short segment from The Daily Show, with particular emphasis on the material beginning at the 3:45 mark. Both of these videos contain highly politically charged material, but they do so in quite different fashions. In the interests of getting at a core central concern regarding my primary focus, I'd like to devote a couple of paragraphs to an admittedly superficial expurgation of these two videos, from which base I hope to illustrate my primary points.

A word on Green Day: I'm old enough, and have listened to enough music, to have lost track of the many times I've chalked some song up to the "one-hit wonder" category: Beck's Loser and The Beastie Boys' Fight for your Right are but two examples of how very wrong I've been in the past, and Basket Case is a third. I was the wrong age to be seriously taken by this band, and when I first saw the video, what I saw was a hybrid of The Pistols and The Femmes, which left me giving them high marks for shared taste, low marks for originality. And while I have to admit I have a knee-jerk positive reaction to a lot of what Billie Joe Armstrong has to say about politics, I'd class it, pretty much, in the "Stupid White Men" category of political commentary--that is, unnecessarily simplistic and given to much the same tendency toward that form of reverse discrimination that tends to ennoble anything that's not part of a core power structure. If it's criticism I want, I'm much more likely to gravitate toward people like Noam Chomskey, Susan Sontag and Seymour Hersh for analysis of what's presently going on. You can fault those sources--and perhaps you'd be right to do so--but making a strong case against them requires a bit more brainpower than does debunking Billie Joe Armstrong or Michael Moore.

That said...

If appreciating the aesthetic qualities of Green Day's output is at all analogous to appreciating a Michael Moore film, i.e., at some point inseperable from the politics that drive the piece, I suppose at base I'm one of their ilk. But I don't think the two inseperable. I very much appreciated "Bowling for Columbine" as an aesthetic object, though I found much to fault with its presentation of "facts" and its underlying thesis: primarily, the film brought out that undergraduate love for all things post-modern, and--as I did upon watching Fahrenheit 911 (a film I did not enjoy) after it--mostly I wondered why it was that Moore was never able to take that final step that would propel much of his work past "effective" and into the realm of "great," namely, turning his questions upon his own work. In "Bowling," this could perhaps have taken the form of applying his central thesis--that much of what is wrong with contemporary American culture is the product of unnecessary fear-mongering, to the point of straight out paranoia, by mainstream media outlets--to his own work. Moore, too, partakes of this fear-mongering, and "Bowling for Columbine" is a prime example of precisely that, but Moore either doesn't have the chops or the guts to point that spotlight back upon his own work. If he did so, the work might be less immediately persuasive, but, I think, would be considerably more worthy as an aesthetic object. These reflections lie entirely outside of my own opinion that mainstream media does function upon unnecessary fear mongering, an opinion fueled, no doubt, by my experience as a teenager in a perfectly ordinary town in Oklahoma, listening as the adults around me hatched bizarre theories about how the Crips and the Bloods would swoop down on our fair city every year during the Tri-State Music Festival to replenish their numbers by recruiting new members from marching bands and young Oklahomans mostly just grateful for one time out of the year when there was something to do other than watching the stock car races at the local speedway. Paranoia's an ugly thing, and it deserves to be criticized--I just didn't think Moore went far enough.

In this respect, Green Day's Wake Me Up When September Ends benefits from the virtue of brevity, as well as the wise decision, in both the lyrics and the video, to keep things open-ended. In fact, the song, which Armstrong originally intended as a memorial for his father, has enjoyed much the same fate as The Time of Your Life in its versatility: it has been used as a tribute to the victims of September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and Joey Ramone. No doubt, in less public ways, it has served as tribute to many others. The video, however, makes a pretty pointed effort at casting the song in the light of Armstrong's well known anti-war stance, and it's not particularly subtle about how it goes about doing it. The lyrics of the song itself are not particularly high poetry--but then, Green Day never was about high poetry--but they are a paragon of restraint when compared to the story line of the video. Both are painted in the broad, sweeping strokes we've come to expect from our popular fare: the lyrics in their equation of summer with "innocence" and rain with pain, and the video in its simplified representation of the motivations behind love and war. There's a classical shorthand at work here, one that I find vaguely irritating on an aesthetic level, but the video greatly benefits from a number of sound decisions regarding narrative tension: the long opening sequence is an open question, with the boy's words, right down to his response to the girl's profession of love--"I know"--being as applicable as a prelude to a break-up as they are to what actually transpires within the video, and the decision, in the second dramatic sequence, to withhold the nature of the boy's actions--on first viewing, it's not at all unlikely that one might interpret the girl's distress as being the result of his having been unfaithful--propels the viewer forward to the realization of what he has, in fact, done. I can't help but suspect that the underlying equation made between infidelity and betrayal, on the one hand, and the boy's decision to enlist on the other, is not entirely coincidental. That said, in my own viewing, if such an equation was intended, I was not given the sense that infidelity was directly attributable to the boy. There's a larger villain here, and this video is a clear reaction to that villain. What is most compelling, however, and what I think fuels much of the popularity of this piece, is how the video serves to frame the song, and how both are framed by the times in which they occur. Logic can serve any master, and with the right set of statistics, you can argue either for or against the decision to invade Iraq, but most people are not making either decision based solely upon logic. Nor, would I argue, should they. Emotions are not always--or even usually--the best possible foundation for the political stances one takes, but they are far from irrelevant, both by virtue of their being the foundation that the vast majority of humans do use, and by virtue of the fact that they are not entirely dispensible as analytical tools. This video speaks to that fact: real lives are being destroyed by these decisions, on all sides, and real consequences will be felt as a result. This video points out some of the negatives, and as contrived as the narrative sequence may be, I don't think it entirely removed from the everyday reality many face.

My reaction to this video speaks directly to what I regard to be my first "failing" in any analysis of the current war: those who argue for it tend to be armed with timelines and casualty figures (remarkably vague, always, on the number of Iraqis who have fallen in this war), and the fall-back position is almost inevitably ends-based utilitarianism: there is much citing of the number of victims that "would have resulted" had we decided not to invade, and comparison of highly disputable casualty figures within Iraq, and the numbers are always such that the hypothetical "had we not invaded" number of casualties is higher than the one currently being suffered. Maybe so. I don't claim to know. What I claim, rather, is that when I read the story of Aya al-Astal, a 9-year-old Palestinian girl who was shot to death when she wandered too close to the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, I think of the terror I would feel were my own 9-year-old daughter to suffer a similar fate, and I cannot help but find myself sharing the grief of her parents. Is this any basis for policy decisions? Of course not. And of course, only the most craven among the hawkish members of our society would argue that she in any way deserved that fate, though I've no doubt that someone, somewhere, has already made much of the fact that Aya's mother voted for Hamas. This is the sort of terror we are meant to think around and accept as necessary by those--again, on both sides--who insist that war is inevitable. And it is precisely this sort of story that finds this pacifist in solidarity with the speaker of Bruce Cockburn's most well-known song, through a fervent wish, contradictorally enough, for possession of a rocket launcher for just long enough to right some long-suffered wrongs. The only thing that quells that sickening sense of a need for retaliation is a deep sense of the futility of so reacting.

All of which is to say I understand that desire for retaliation...understand it better than I'm capable of effectively relating, actually, but that I have made a decision not to act solely on that basis. Nor to justify those actions I undertake on that basis through appeal to a hypothetical scenario, dressed up as logic and masquerading as a utilitarian argument.

Next: Anthems and Virality

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I don't know what to make of this

Perhaps I'm just slow. I have such difficulty with the snarking that goes on re: poetry so often on Jim Behrle's blog (which I'd link to, but he's always bloody moving it...dunno why), but then he goes and posts a link to this review, which I think pretty much gets at my own understanding of poetry.

I think poetry would benefit enormously if more people understood it in the same sense we understand soccer (or, as it's called pretty much everywhere else in the world, football): there are pros, there are coaches for those who wish to become pros, there are those who are more capable in a pick-up game than others, and then there are those who just play because they like playing. Nobody thinks much of a pro who walks in on a pick-up game and starts complaining because the quality of play isn't up to a professional standard, nor do pro players (that I know of) ever suggest that the sheer glut of games being played is contributing to the downfall of soccer. In fact, it's quite the contrary: that pick-up games ARE played is a sign of the continuing vitality of the sport. Nor, finally, does one think much of a pro player who trashes another pro player on the basis of some weakness in their game. When it occurs, it's understood to fall under the heading of trash talk, and it does nothing to improve the game--or the public perception of same--of the one who is offering said trash talk. Nobody claims ownership of the game, and the goat on one day can be the hero of the next: it's judged on specific play, and while a career of good plays does contribute to a lasting legacy, excellent plays also merit their place in the spotlight.

What's so hard to understand about this? Poetry doesn't have a final score, but a good play is a good play, no matter who is making it. And anyone who wants to play can find a field on which they will be welcomed.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


We're doin' it again!

...with after party at either Anmok or Gyeongpo with beloved bartender Gyeong-Sup in tow (or so I've been told). Here's the flyer, inspired by the folks at this site. Be there or be quadratic.

Friday, August 18, 2006


These strike me as wise words:

"Do not jump to conclusions, do not rush to judgment, do not speculate, let the justice system take its course.”

Of course, our near complete inability to heed them, however, is one source for a certain lack of hope that's been plaguing this bent liberal pacifist of late. Also makes it tough to either read the news or champion the blogosphere, as well.

I'm really not of one opinion or the other, but I do feel MUCH need to reserve judgment in the present case. Thankfully, I'm not entirely without company...and some of the folks that are suggesting a more cautious approach to this story happen to be journos and editors...for whatever that's worth to you.

Personally, I can't wait until the rapture's been taken care of and we can all get back down to serious work. Until then, it seems likely we'll mostly be running around like headless chooks.

I should go to bed, I think. Grr. Tchitch

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The Results Are in Winning Writers, for the 2006 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest--in my opinion, the healthiest and most effective response to dodgy contests I have so far encountered on the web.

Read and enjoy.


An Open Letter those who see fit to plague indy zines with DOS spam attacks:

Do you really feel so secure in your own sense of poetics that you think yourself worthy to mete out these potentially destructive attacks? You should spend more time writing and studying poetry, and less trying to take down sites that you disagree with, for whatever reason. Your actions are reminiscent of nothing so much as a spurned lover, and no, they don't make your work any more palatable to anyone.

Your misguided actions are the reason that this editor disagrees so thoroughly with those who are arrogant enough to think themselves qualified for the job of "cleaning up poetry." It is a destructive proposition, one that bases itself on the proposition that the one undertaking said task is in any way qualified to issue a definitive statement regarding what is poetry and what is not. You, like the rest of us, suffer somewhat from the lack of perspective that results from being within the "mess," and is compounded by your arrogance in believing yourself to be in possession of the "truth."

You actions also, incidentally, point up the necessity for anyone undertaking the task of establishing a venue for poetry to be fairly well versed not only in matters poetic, but also in having a fair grasp on technological issues.

You are correct in your assessment that such actions will turn our attention your way, but that attention is hardly of such a nature as to in any way improve your chances of publishing your work.

You are part of the problem, not the solution.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006



"There was this kid..."

I love Kids in the Hall.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Bug in the ear...

Well, I actually have a lot to post, many pictures, much news. Trip: a number of mentions, of late, including Site of the Month for June at InTheFray magazine, a line in the "news" section of the homepage for Oberlin College Press,and an invitation to speak as part of a panel of online editors at Binghamton University's Writing By Degrees conference--an opportunity I'm still scrambling to find a way to take advantage of, as travel expenses need to be met by yours truly and I am, as always, strapped for the cash. After checking cheap flights, I came to the conclusion that a car--even a rental car, and even with gas prices as they are--would be cheaper than flights, as I am due in Springfield, Illinois that Saturday to attend my youngest sister's wedding, thus a three legged flight to a couple of somewhat out of the way destinations, cheapest, not counting transport from the 'nearby' airports to the venues in questions, going at approximately $400. Unfortunately, car rental agencies in Oklahoma only offer unlimited mileage for OK and bordering states at best, and it gets pretty pricey outside of that area. So tonight I'm checking on Tulsa rental agencies--it's still in OK, but I've been given reason to believe they may be an exception to the general rule, though it's nothing certain. Failing that, I need to call up my good friend Andy and see if there isn't some other car arrangements that could be made, or find someone with some frequent flier points who would be willing to help us out in attending the conference. I'd welcome the opportunity, not only to hobnob & exchange ideas, but also just to get some of my own thoughts on online publishing organized. Anyone who has been dropping in here regularly knows I don't lack for them, though the stuff posted here has never been really organized into a solid draft. I have until the 15th, at which point this is sorted or not. If anyone has ideas, don't hesitate to contact me.

Finally, and oddly enough, for this editor, probably one of the more exciting developments, the National English Literary Museum of Southern Africa recently wrote requesting that they be given the names of the authors of Triplopia's interview with Lindsey Collen, so it could be included in their database of primary and secondary material published by, and on, southern African authors. Why excited about being included in a bibliography? Well, for what it's worth, the interviews, especially, were an aspect of Triplopia that I had hoped might, in time, hold some significant literary and historic worth, and respectable citations help immensely with that. Not to mention that I thoroughly enjoyed the process of interviewing Collen, and take great pride in what that interview accomplishes. That, and I highly suspect that, MFA reject or no, there's a closet academic inside of me. Or maybe not so closet. Dunno.

That, and pictures, musings, and reviews of some recent experiences that I think just might be of interest to a few folks out there.

Speaking of pictures, Penny Rowstron, another local Aussie--who by the way gave me what I think is an exellent title for a book of poems when describing the way I dance--sends these, from Friday night:

Here's the poster, as it appears in the window of Bumpin' Bar, one of the go-to spots for anyone who's searching for Waeguks in Gangneung. It's a cozy place, lots of old wood inside, and cluttered. Funny thing, it caught my eye on my third day in town, though it wasn't for another good three weeks before I actually went in, and only then worked up the nerve when a posting at Dave's ESL Cafe netted me a response that suggested this was one of two places to go if it was English conversation I was looking for. Believe me, after three weeks of speaking v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y t-o e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e I m-e-t, I needed it. When, after being given the name, I sought it out, I recognized it immediately from my first trounce through the Shi-nae (Downtown), and kind of wondered if there isn't just some sort of second sense, in many people, of where like languaged people are likely to congregate. It's a cool bar, and only gets trumped some nights by the Warehouse (just down Munhwa-agoli, which translates into "culture street") by the fact that the latter has a) draft beer, and b) a pool table. If Bumpin had these two things, I suspect most of my nights out would have been spent in the cozy confines of Mr. Lee's fine establishment.

Dylan reading from his self-published book of poems, "Arcadian Squalor," post-kerfuffle, the stage having been more than adequately calibrated for the upcoming acts. I used to be able to throw rocks at Dylan's bathroom window from my living room/bedroom. That was before the vacant lot outside the only window in my apartment became a construction site (something I very much anticipated upon moving in and seeing the view--and the rapid way in which Gangneung seems to be expanding).

Michael Hutley, termed by Carlos--another Gangneung regular, and in attendance Friday night--as "one for the housewives" in our makeshift "band". We figured with the glasses, Dylan was deffo the keyboardist, leaving me and Dave (the two baldies) to fight over bass and drums. Personally, I'm torn between Keith Moon and Sid Vicious, though, as always, if I have to be someone else, I'd prefer it was Iggy.

Yours truly. I think Penny caught me in mid cheer, as I use and abuse my muse.

Melvin, sun-worshipper whose blog is, during these summer months, dominated by beach pictures. Of course, he's had the last week off, and it's been a little hotter than lovely outside, so he's probably got more than his usual number of late.

Dave anchors the show from behind the bar. After giving it some thought, I decided that it was neither acoustics nor lighting that prompted him to make this decision, but proximity to liquor. Dave's blog was very active during the World Cup, his being a soccer freak--though not a particularly good prognosticator: I think he made like five correct picks throughout the entire tournament. Or to quote the man himself in assessing his abilities as footie predictor: I couldn’t have fared worse in analysing and predicting matches if I’d sat out in a pasture, surrounded by mounds of bovine dung and overseen by football-ignorant constellations, and simulated each of the 64 matches in this World Cup using dung beetles as players, frozen feces as the football, and LSD-induced hallucinations to choose my formation and formulate my strategies. Believe me, it was bad.

The show, though, was good, and on the ground response has been thoroughly gratifying: it's been so long since I had the opportunities to flex my poetic muscles on such a stage, and Friday night just served to remind me of how much I enjoy doing so. I used to do it monthly in Munich, so it's been missed a lot during my stay in Gangneung. Which brings me to my final point: Dylan and I have talked it over, and we're going to try to sneak one in before I leave (that date is quickly approaching)--we approach Gyeong Sup this weekend about a possible date. If Friday's show--and the feedback we've received since--is anything to gauge the matter by, there is definitely sufficient demand for fare such as this to merit its being a much more regular event.

I'll keep you posted on developments here.


Monday, August 07, 2006


Verse Libromancy

Over on the sidebar, you'll see a new button right at the top, with the label "Verse Libromancy". This is a cool little java program featured--and I think? put together--by the fellow over at Bud Bloom Poetry: Hit it, and it will take you to one of 554 different venues for online poetry, including (incidentally), Triplopia. What's more, if you want one for your own blog, Bud Bloom has made it simple for you.

For my money, it seems a much better use of one's online time than is encountered in some quarters--more on that point later. Meanwhile, enjoy, and thanks Bud!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


In light of Friday night

...upon which occasion the waeguk crowd in Gangneung were treated to something of a departure from the usual Friday night fare, i.e., a poetry reading at Bumpin' Bar, I've been asked to make the text of "In Praise of Disorganized Minds" available, I'm linking to the original draft. This has undergone some modifications in the course of three performances, but it's there in substance. Thanks to everyone who expressed appreciation for the live version.

Some notes on the performance: the bulk of the time was given over to the four men whose pictures "grace" the show's flyer: James Dylan Butler, who deserves all props for getting the show to actually happen, Michael Hutley, who, if he maintains a web presence, I haven't yet encountered it, myself, and Dave Marshall, in that order. Once festivities were underway, two other performers joined in--Melvin, with a haiku, and Bryce, truly the king of Gangneung Waeguk open mic, as he maintains a weekly show at Uncle 29, another bar in the downtown area, where he plays a regular set of the kind of indy rock it's rare to encounter in any Korean pub. I've been given to understand that there was one more person who, at least at the onset, wished to perform, but did not, whether because she felt unwelcome or just timid I don't know, though I very much hope it was the latter, and not the former, and hope, should there be another such performance (and there's been some expression of interest in that happening), will consider herself very much welcomed to join in on shaping the stage.

Breakdown of the show: Dylan kicked us off and acted as compere, graciously taking the traditional dive that the first slot almost always represents. It's a truism in open mic circles that the first slot is always the worst (though the last slot can be equally as daunting), because the poet who takes that slot is basically in charge of getting the audience ready for the coming show. Dylan did indeed find himself filling precisely that function, and he did so with a grace that is very much to be commended. His act included reading a promotional sticker from the side of a wastebasket--surprisingly poetic copy written, no doubt, by a bored office worker somewhere in the bowels of the home furnishings industry, and--as with all copy--without a name to attribute the piece to. This was followed by Dylan's tribute to Ian Hamilton Finley (who passed away in March). Dylan set Finley's poetry to music, and spent the necessary time to memorize the poem and to synch it to the music, which did much to pull a highly image-driven piece into a form suitable to live performance, but it was in this piece that Dylan took the dive for the team--not for any fault in his delivery, but for the fact that there were two middle-aged Korean men who took exception to the sudden encroachment (well enough advertised, but not surprisingly offensive to some) of the waeguk community on the space they'd chosen for a traditional night of heavy drinking (and probably, business chatter). Bumpin' Bar is a "cosy" pub--cosy enough that microphones, while they would have helped, were not necessary for a poetry reading--and there's really not a stage area in the place, so, to simplify matters, Gyeong Sup (Mr. Lee, the proprietor of the bar (in accompanying pirate-y picture along with yours truly)) had the front door locked--to provide us with a makeshift stage--knowing that those who were interested in the show would know to come through the back door. Well, after some pretty vocal objections (nothing aggressive, just unappreciative), the two men in question made the decision to move their business elsewhere, but upon attempting to exit, found the door locked, and were too drunk to unlock it. Thus, not only was Dylan working against their complaints, and their moving past him as he performed the piece, but the backdrop of a good portion of his piece were these two men, joined by the barstaff, struggling to get the front door open. They finally got out, and after that, the show was pretty much smooth sailing. Dylan rounded his set off with a pair of his own poems, including a well appreciated piece on soju, a vicious (not viscous) liquid that is very nearly impossible for the visitor to avoid entirely, as it is the traditional drink with most meat dishes--and especially Sam Gyeop Sal, a staple amongst cash-strapped folks such as myself. I don't know how much planning Dylan put into the sequencing of work, but he couldn't have planned better: the tribute, with its distractions, was well balanced by the musical background, and once those distractions were dealt with, he was given a clear stage (and the appreciation of the rest of the audience) upon which to perform his own work.

Dylan was followed by Michael Hutley, an Australian and like Dylan and Dave, one of the old hands locally (I think Dylan, with 4+ years here, may be the 'youngest' hand among them, with me being--literally--the baby of the crowd). Michael's father was a performance poet in Australia, though, as with Michael, I can't find any resources concerning his work online. Michael, though he's done considerable work in poetry, left much of his work in Australia, and when he was invited to participate in this show, found himself without material, so has spent the last couple of weeks drafting new work--and enjoying the excuse to produce new work. We sat down together shortly before the show, and, after expressing his surprise on learning that I'd been working with poetry for so long, spent some time talking about how much he appreciated the nudge to get back to work. To my mind, this is the real function of open mics: it gets people thinking in terms of what they can do on the stage, and it gives them a reason to put something new together, and that's really always been a good enough reason, to my mind, to promote such shows. Michael performed admirably, and to the great delight of the crowd, who were especially appreciative of his description of a sub-human romantic encounter with a Social Science type.

That took us to the break, and I was slated to open up the second half of the show. I'd shown Dylan the piece, just to clue him in, as host, on what to expect. The piece I performed is specifically tailored to performance, doesn't really translate in its entirety to paper, as it relies upon stage conventions to get the whole effect of the piece. What's interesting about the piece is that pre-show jitters (which are not entirely feigned: I do get quite nervous before such a show, no matter how well I think I have the material down) actually help the piece along. Well, ten minutes before performance time, I'm generally engaged in a quiet process of working up said jitters to a peak, again, half of this in deference to the piece, half very real. But the piece came off without a hitch, and afterwards, I received many comments to the effect that those in the audience wanted more. That's always a good sign, I think. One note: generally, after performing a piece, I have a real tendency to flee the stage, and to get as far away from it as I can to recover. I attempted this fleeing act but, due to space (the bar was pretty packed--it's a small place, and had there been half as many people in attendance as there were, it would have looked crowded) and Taylor having parked himself smack in the middle of the only escape route to get pictures (I'm sure those pics will go up sometime in the next 5 years, as he's yet to get his pictures from his extended Korean vacation--taken more than a few months ago--up on his blog--nudge, nudge), I was totally unable to get away from the stage for, I dunno, 30 seconds or so--but it felt like much longer. I did eventually manage to get clear of Dylan, who introduced Melvin, a total sun-worshipper who delivered a haiku in praise of summer. By the time he'd presented his piece, I was safely ensconced in the back of the room, and spent the better portion of the remainder of the show shaking. As I will.

Dave anchored the show, and delivered his work from behind the bar. This was partially in deference to the lack of microphones, which made hearing in the rear of the bar somewhat difficult (though audience noise was minimal), but also, I suspect, partially due to the fact that the reading light, which was in place for Michael's slot, had burned out. I have to admit, I'm usually not wholly attentive after my own work, mostly due to nerves, but I did recognize one offering that's up on his blog: Entitlement. I'm sure a hunt through his archives will yield others (BIG hint: go to Dave's complete profile if you've a mind to read more). To my distress, I haven't spoken to Dave since I was on the stage, and I would have liked to have had an idea of how he felt about the show as a whole. The anchoring slot is always tough, and if the dancing and celebrations that followed the show--as well as the many suggestions, from many quarters, that another such show be performed--are any gauge of the show's success, we all acquitted ourselves well.

After the poetry, Bryce rounded the whole out with a set of songs from his ever-expanding repertoire: I get the sense, of late, that his weekly gig, and the regularity with which he is called upon to play guitar at other social gatherings, are starting to do their magic, and that his guitar work is smoothing out, and his repertoire of lyrics are starting to solidify. One of his favorites, and a good indicator of the kind of music he graces us with, is Neutral Milk Hotel's Two-Headed Boy, a catchy tune that I suspect I will always associate with Gangneung in general and Bryce specifically. He's also been known to bust out with some Elliot Smith, and that's always welcome musical fare in my book.

It was a good night. I treasure such nights, really, I do, and it was made all the more memorable for my sitting up on Gyeong-po beach, watching the sun rise over the East Sea, with two of my closest friends in this city, Taylor and Tania. May others continue to blaze the trail Dylan and Bryce are carving out in the local waeguk scene.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Friday Night's all right

...for poetry.

All right, all right, woohoo...if you're in Gangneung, come see it.

--more soon. Much movement, only a few weeks left of Korea, looking forward to returning to my girls...and, in an odd way, returning to the States, a changed man, I think.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?