A few years from now when books no longer exist and the only things being read will be descriptions of the daily stool samples of the latest 16 year old pop star or of the drug addiction meltdown of some hack pseudo actor on the i-Pad X along with snuff e-magazines giving detailed photos and brief descriptions of daily murders and the most recent flood, drought and/or earthquake, complete with devastating videos one click away, the drones for the privatized "Removal Works" will be loading me up into the van for obsolete laborers who are not employed by search engines, hospitals, rescue agencies or radiation treatment plants.
And just before they slam the lead-lined door of the vehicle that will take me to the factory that will convert me into soylent green I will have one last tiny bit of courage and will and yell out "People once read books! Even poetry! And not only that, one warm Sunday in March, 2011, a book of poetry was published by a thing called Narrow House. It was written by a man named Chris Mason and not only was he not 18, he was not carried into the show in a giant egg carried by servants. In fact he drove up on his own volition in a kind of battered family type station wagon, his grown talented daughter Elizabeth seated beside him.
"People turned out in great numbers for the event of this publication and hung on the words of his verse. Music was played. The bald one calling himself 'Dierker' played so swift and passionately that his likeness could not be captured on camera except as a demonic blur! Surely there must be a copy of Chris' book Hum Who Hiccup surviving somewhere. Ask Secretary of Defense Justin Sirois. He once ran Narrow House before he renounced the printed word and art. Colonel Qaddafi's all female security force shall avenge not only my death, but the death of all booksellers!"
Above are proud Narrow House publishers holding the fine new book, which contains most if not all of his poetry from the last decade or so, including his dreamt poems of poet friends, "Homeric Hums" and the beautiful spare "Hiccups" themselves. As Jamie Gaughan-Perez held the book up someone yelled out "Lauren Bender, if the book is as good as you say and you are truly so proud of it, pose as if you are hypnotized and being forced to stare at the nude engorged wang of Mel Gibson with a small anvil attached to it". And indeed she did.
Kickstarting the event was young Robert Michael O'Brien, curator of the WORMS readings. I wish I had had a notebook with me to jot down a few quotes that really grabbed me since my retention rate is that of a banana peel, but two of his pieces grabbed me in particular. One was about being pulled over by a cop late at night and the officer is impressed by his love and feeling for life and expresses his own lack of such feeling. It was not all Ice-T hatin' on the cops, just using the uncomfortable situation of being halted on the roadside as a vehicle for getting across the inexpressible.
Another standout was his chant-like piece that included the lines "The body is power/The abandonment of body is power". Which made me think of the Gang of Four's "Our bodies make us worry". What more needs to be said?
Taking the stage of the re-vitalized Red Room of Normal's Books & Records next was an expanded trio version of The Tinklers with Downtown Blood on My Spatz Peyton on ukelele. His slick licks interwove nicely with Charles' slide guitar excursions. Recently the Tinklers have added "Bully of the Town" from the Harry Smith Anthology of Folk Music to their set. I would love for them to take on an extended project of covering that entire groundbreaking collection with various friends sitting in.
Also sitting in on a few Tinklers' songs was Chris' talented daughter Elizabeth. She sang on "Splash Splash" and did an acapella duet of "I'm Sticking With You" with her pops that was truly moving. Long long ago Elizabeth interned at Normal's and when things were slow we would get her to play the hell out of Bartok and Stravinsky on the old Red Room piano. And Elizabeth, like her dad, being both a populist and a consumate artist, would be playing beautiful, complicated classical pieces on the piano while at the same time talking loudly to Courtney about how she wanted to be a cheerleader.
And here be just a slice of the crowd in attendance. Study them well! The swarthy bearded one there, in foreground in white t-shirt - surely he is a threat to homeland security? And the one in the maroon hoodie, next to the one they call "Magus" who resembles a choirboy, surely his dry laconic joking covers for a heartless hatred for pickup trucks, reality shows and the right to keep impoverished people from having health care.
Speaking of choirboy Magus, here he is reading along with Chris on the poem that Chris dreamed of him. I believe this piece is called "I Will Read Every Poem In This Book Except The One for Rupert, Despite His Being Seated Right There in the Front Row Making Doe Eyes At Me". I have to say that the whole reading Chris did was masterful, but this was probably my favorite piece of the day. The two readers really worked well together and the sounds and words resonated like a big old gong on Kung Fu.
And speaking of that long gone loved show that would be most likely torturously bad today if I were to view an episode, what to make of this bald master, Grasshopper? Here is reed king John Dierker playing with the energetic dynamic improv trio Microkingdom, along with drummer Will Redman and guitarist Marc Miller. Dierker's passionate face while playing is so difficult to capture on camera that he made a five figure deal with both MAC and Windows where you have to pay for a special APP that will present him clearly. And clearly I cannot afford that.
All in all, a great day. Beautiful words read well conveying strong messages of caring and hope. Goofy music of love and concern for all people and nature. And the underloved cash register of Normal's was embraced by wallet food!
But if all this wasn't magic enough, when the show was over and no one was left in the store other than me and Anthony, Anthony told me that none other than Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) of The Wire popped in the store looking for a book during the show! Luckily I didn't notice her or I would have left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth for the event by breaking down into some kind of Jerry Lewis spazz out. Truly her presence was a sign that we were all on the right path!
Cheers to Chris Mason for creating writing from both the head and heart that will withstand the horrors of time and to Narrow House for containing so much of it so well within a beautiful object once known as "book".