Last Saturday's reading at Modern Formations Gallery went well and any trepidation I had about reading for the first time in over 20 years rapidly evaporated as the poems took over. Because there were so many readers (14), we were limited to 8 minutes apiece, which made things even easier. I had decided early on that I would do a combination of poems from Lilliput, in recognition of this 20th anniversary year, with a few of my own to finish up. This is another instance that working in the short form really paid off.
I thought I'd share the Lilliput poems I read with you in today's post. Selecting the poems for reading really highlighted some differences between the long and short forms. Most poems of 10 lines or less really don't have public presentation as a primary goal; it's no stretch to say the short poem is generally not designed for public readings. There really isn't enough time to pick up a rhythm, get up some steam, and deliver the goods. The poem is over before you know it.
That doesn't mean that poets don't bring considerable talents in matters such as rhythm, meter, word sound, rhyme and more to the short poem to make them amenable to reading aloud. In fact, if a short poem doesn't bring some poetic device(s), it is in real danger of appearing to be an aphorism or even just a wise (or wise ass) remark. So, in going through the Lillie archives I went in search of certain types of short poems and, happily, found them in reasonable abundance. As a result, the poems I selected actually are not representative of the magazine as a whole, just a certain aspect of that magazine.
It didn't make much sense to get up and read work that wasn't designed in a way for reading and wouldn't connect in that type of setting. As a result, what follows was specifically chosen for the reading and, from the response, seemed to go over fairly well. It was a real challenge to present the work of other poets and to do the work justice.
springtime in a city park
look at them all
carrying weight and shoes
briefcases and glasses.
a cigarette slowly lifted
to the lips.
sunlight on a youthful book
look at them all
they're so fucking beautiful.Charlie Mehrhoff, LR #48
business as usualmoney says have a nice day
money says bark like a dog
money says bark like a dog
and roll over
money says blame each other
money says have another biscuitDon Wleklinski, LR #153
We have arrived without luggage
in a country we don't recognize
among people who distrust us
where the walls have no windows
and the doors open only
for the chosen. Welcome home.David Chorlton, LR #145
AppleSometimes when eating an apple
I bite too far
and open the little room
the lovers have prepared,
and the seeds fall
onto the kitchen floor
and I see
they are tear-shaped.Jay Leeming, LR #72
I RIP OFF YOU, YOU RIP OFF ME, WE RIP OFF THEM
THAY RIP OFF US, THAY RIP ME OFF, I RIP OFF THEM
YOU RIP OFF THEM, THAY RIP OFF YOU, HE RIPS OFF
ME, I RIP OFF HIM, HE RIPS OFF YOU, YOU RIP OFF
HIM, WE RIP OFF HIM, HE RIPS OFF US, I RIP OFF
HER, SHE RIPS OFF ME, SHE RIPS OFF YOU, YOU RIP
OFF HER, I RIP OFF ME, YOU RIP OFF YOU, THAY RIP
OFF THEMSELVES, I FOLLOW YOU, YOU FOLLOW ME AND
SO ON DOWN THE LINE, THAY HYPNOTIZE US, THAY
HYPNOTIZE US, I HYPNOTIZE YOU
John Harter, LR #106
THE LIBRARIAN ASKED
CAN YOU WAIT
FOR THAT BOOK
BUDDHIST STATUARYJohn Harter, LR #110
Lost in the Translation
I'm impotent today she
said, closed the book
capped her pen. You can't
be impotent or potent, they
laughed. You have no penis.
She listened, and for a long
time, she believed themCeleste Bowman, LR #89
He crept in
Suzanne Bowers, #59
we're mostly water
till the rain falls
and every atom
in our body
starts to go homeAlbert Huffstickler, LR #116
Yawn Series of Younger Poetsannual politician of
a first book of
plums by ailing
writer under 40.
Marmosets may be
and must be
a stamped, self
addressed mooseLyn Lifshin, LR #6
each piece a shining eye
the rest of the explosionscarecrow, LR #71
2003Just before spring
--the war begins
-but - ignorant -
the pink blossoms
--their tiny fistsJudith Toler, LR #135
Last night the past broke
and there was history
all over the cellar.
You should have seen it -
Rome was here, Greece was there,
Egypt floated near the ceiling -
finally I had to
call an historian:
and you know what they charge
for emergencies.Gail White, LR #22
One Small Poemcan take you
a long way
think how far
this one.Bart Solarcyzk, LR #123
I chose not to use any haiku per se for this particular reading simply because the ones I was considering didn't make the final cut, though I did feature a number among my own poems (since it is the form I most exclusively write in these days). There were a number of great readers that evening, particularly Renée Alberts, Nikki Allen, and Jerome Crooks. I felt very fortunate to be sharing the stage with so many talented artists.
I guess I'm good for another 20 years.
hand gestures too...
translated by David G. Lanoue