Lost Diary from Wave Book's Poetry Bus Tour 2006
Poetry Snark recently attended a reading at a local pub called the Sanctuary. The reading sucked, but I found this diary outside the bar, just laying there on the sidewalk. It seems to chronicle the adventures of one of the organizers of Wave Book's Poetry Bus Tour 2006. Anyway, it seems like something that might be of interest to readers of the Snark, so I've included a few excerpts below:
Our poetry bus tour starts tomorrow night, and I'm really pumped. It's rare that poets get the opportunity to bring their poems directly to the People. In a way, you could say that this bus tour completes the mission started by Walt Whitman: democratizing poetry for ordinary folk. Our first reading is at Galapagos in Williamsburg.
This tour is going to be amazing. I'm told last night there were several people in the crowd who weren't poets. At one point, some guy came in off the street to ask for change, and he stayed, presumably to hear a poem or two. There he was--just this ordinary Joe--absorbing poetry. Eileen Myles read from her "Alembic Isotopes" series.
NYC was relatively safe, but now we're off to some real hinterlands: Amherst, Mass. This could get a little hairy. You could tell pulling into town that this wasn't your usual mandarin crowd. The gas station we filled up at didn't have cappuccinos! Later, I quoted Donne to our receptionist at the Hilton, and the guy didn't even recognize it (and it wasn't obscure Donne at all, either). This is strange ground we're treading...
I'm not sure we were connecting last night at the "Reading Room." Matthea was reading some of those poems of hers with no punctuation, and I myself had a hard time following. I can only imagine what the undergraduate English majors thought! I know this is a Quixotic quest, but it really feels special being on the road with such amazing poets.
We did have one spot of friction, though, as one of our lesser poets took umbrage at being referred to as my "opening act."
Last night was pretty disturbing. I was just around the corner from two of the poets on the Poetry Bus, and I couldn't help but overhear them talking about the Tour. One doubted the authenticity of our mission, and the other responded, "yeah, it's bullshit, but maybe if I flirt with Matthew, Wave Books will publish my second collection." Needless to say, I kicked them both off the bus. Tomorrow, though, Janet Holmes is reading. She edits Ahsahta press, and with my third MSS still without a publisher, this should be really exciting. All said, we've had seventeen book editors read on this tour, which is probably the surest sign that we're breaking through.
I'm a little worried about our reading tonight. It's in Iowa! I mean, we're really getting "out there." We wanted to fit in, so the whole bus stopped at a local thrift store called "Impressions." We bought some old clothes and stuff. Anselm found a John Deer farmer hat that really looks authentic. We're not "dressing down," though. We really like this stuff!
I've decided to feature Anselm more prominently in what Joshua calls our "backwoods reading positions." Anselm's poems have cuss words in them, so I think they will appeal to a non-literary crowd.
Last night was astonishing. We were worried about reaching out to the masses, so we lined up a very accessible local poet--Cole Swenson. And it was everything we could have hoped. Cole read from her new series based on the life of a 12th-century scribe named Arduous the Worthy, who used white space in his early notes. You could tell the locals were really digging it--almost like a beat poetry event from the 60s. Cole finished with a poem that uses "fractured algorithms" to chart the migratory patterns of an extinct species of seal.