The curated event runs from 2 p.m. until midnight or so, depending upon how close they run to schedule. Wendi and I headed to St. Mark's Church mid-afternoon and settled in. I was eager to see what the marathon was like, having heard about it for years from Wendi. While I'm not a poetry buff by any means, I'm intrigued by the genre. It's a true art to pack so much meaning into so few words. And besides, how bad could it be? If I really hated a poet, she'd be off the stage in two or three minutes, with the promise of someone great just around the corner.
It wasn't long before Nicole Sealey's reading of "The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born" grabbed me. It began:
"Scientists say the average human
life gets three months longer every year.
By this math, death will be optional. Like a tie
or dessert or suffering...."
I loved her language and sought out the young poet during a break to tell her so. (To read the entire poem, click here.)
The Washington Squares reunited for the marathon
with a beatnik look.
"Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves..."
It hit me where I live. To read the poem, written in 2007, click here. And to see the Double Yews' performance, click here.
While I enjoyed the seven+ hours of performances we attended, what I was most struck by was the sense of community in the room. Some of the poets were clearly legends in their milieu -- the 90+ year old Jonas Micas, for instance, and John Giorno, who was the subject of Andy Warhol's 1963 movie "Sleep." Some were downtown personalities, like Tammy Faye Starlite, Penny Arcade and Edgar Oliver (whose faux Transylvanian accent threw me for a loop). And some were poets more or less getting their start. Their performances were universally listened to attentively by an appreciative crowd. Even the woman who dressed up as a peanut, danced around and eventually ate some of the debris off the tarp that had been wisely laid down got a positive response. (Click here to see that performance, which I guess was some sort of take on the Peanuts' dance????)
|Steve Earle and Tammy Faye Starlite|
After one taste of the marathon, I can see why Wendi has made it an annual tradition.
To read more about the marathon, click here.