I would have to reach far back into my life, into my childhood really, when my friend's Uncle Johnny would have us over at his shore house that was literally feet away from a pier and the bay and had a fridge always stocked with Coke and Yoo-hoos, to think of a host as generous and kind as Sir Robert M. O'Brien. In just a year and a half or so he has truly built up a great reading series that draws an attentive crowd and mixes up some good diverse intellects.
And just in case you are new to the series and not sure you have found your way to the right spot in the catacombs of the Bell Foundry building (Isn't this the basement parking garage where Marvin Mandell would eat the still beating dismembered hearts of Baltimore orphans?), Robert wears a pleasingly bright lime hoodie to draw your eye and help the pickpockets in the crowd get some work done.
Also, at each WORMS reading, Bob starts off with a nice twist on the ordinary. This time he read the synopsis of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, which took on a new life in this format. The first WORMS of the season Bob talked about the recent phenomenon of "celebrity poetry" and he read verbatim from an inane website advising you on how to get rich quick on Britney quatrains. In honor of that moment I read my poem at this November WORMs that I wrote in homage to the actor who never sleeps and whose doctorates could wallpaper a mansion - James Franco. I dedicated my last poem to publisher genius Adam Robinson not even realizing that he was sitting front row to my left with brainy and wild Stephanie Barber who was shape shifting and burning off so many calories just sitting and squirming in her chair that there were more rainbow colors being given off her aura than a sea of glow sticks at a Phish concert.
After the crowd was done with me, next up was Jeremy Hoevenaar, who moved here fairly recently from Brooklyn.
Third was the Sphinx-like Joseph Young who calmly read micro-stories from Easter Rabbit. His soothing reading voice and gentle flipping of pages reminded me of my favorite newscaster from the 9/11 mess. I never knew his name and he always seemed to come on after midnight. He catalogued updates and events in a low deep tone that wasn't meant to sedate or trick but merely to give each word equal weight and chance and the sound of his words was a promise that life would go on, that this too would be lived through and we would come through the other end of it, only to be bent over a park bench and jackknifed by Karl Rove and his boys over and over while car horns blatted out some football team's fight song.
I have to say that some of my attention was diverted from Joe's reading by the fact that he was only wearing a t-shirt in a warehouse basement on a late November night. I was having sympathetic chilblain freeze, but that might have been also from the miniature Coke I was sipping.
This gent is Matthew Smith, a Johns Hopkins graduate and he also is endowed with one of those voices from beyond. Many of his poems were classically themed and he told great tales of ancient mythology setting a few pieces up, so he made a nice lead-in to the fuzzily shimmering star of the night, Chris Mason.
Chris is one of the rare poets who I can't get enough of in a reading. This one in particular seemed cruelly short. He has a new book coming out on Narrowhouse Press called Hum Who Hiccup and he read a few pieces from there, plus one of his old "click" poems. When I hear Chris read I always feel a renewed belief in humanity, that kindness and thought can still exist and grow. And I also feel slightly ashamed of myself, that I'm not doing enough, not pushing my boundaries enough. But then I go home, slip into some oversized Austin Powers teeth, put on an episode of "The Honeymooners" and wash some Cheetohs down with Robotussin.