Friday, September 30, 2005

Srikanth Reddy and Dara Weir Reading

I just returned from the Srikanth "Chicu" Reddy and Dara Weir reading at Adams House at Harvard tonight. It took place in a nightmarishly artsy red room that bears a certain resemblance to the netherworld to which art-loving Nazis must go when they die. The tomb-heavy door matched the room's crypt-like ambience, and the lights were appropriately dim to make the audience feel like they were somewhere wealthy and important. (For goodness sake, Harvard, go buy a bucket of 100 watt light bulbs!) Essentially, the room scared me.

Even though the poets arrived on time, the reading started twenty minutes late. Why do poetry readings start late? My theory is that the purpose is to punish people, like myself, who actually know how to tell time and can't fake ignorance. For people who arrive late to these things, I'd like to introduce you to a marvelous invention called the "watch." It typically has hands, numbers, and a face and is most often worn on people's wrists. If that's too tough for you, I've heard there are digital "watches" nowadays that just give you the numbers. Seriously, though, I envy the late arrivals. They're the smart ones, economically speaking, because they've made efficient use of their time, while I've been walking around the room and pondering over the reason that there's a plastic hanger in a porcelain bowl by the side window. They're rational actors. I'm the guy staring at a hanger in a bowl.

Fortunately, the poets were nothing like the room. Reddy appeared quite friendly and likable, and Weir seemed open and down-to-earth. Reddy talked about baseball, which made me like him immediately, even though I'm pretty sure he's not an Angels fan. Both the poets have the feel of real people, which I find to be an important quality. I like to impose my judgments of people when I first meet them, because it makes me feel sexy, and I had favorable judgments of each. Both are great readers. Reddy's pieces were perfectly modulated and in keeping with the general tenor of the poems themselves. And they kept their readings the perfect length -- twenty or twenty-five minutes. Obviously, they're really experienced.

Which reminds me -- as usual, there was a lot of mutual whoring going around. First, poets are like whores in the way that they give reading after reading to different audiences, often for a price, and typically never seeing most of the audience members again. It's like prostitution without the sex. Second, audience members, like myself, are whores in the way that we (sometimes) buy the poet's book and have him or her sign it. We don't personally know the poet, but we do it anyway, at least sometimes. I'm not sure why. One of my English teachers once said that she liked to get authors' signatures, because they could be worth a fortune when they die. She was the one who introduced me to Keats.

While Reddy and Weir were reading, I couldn't help but notice poet Peter Richards' olive green sweater, which I'd mistook earlier for a scarf and was stupid enough to tell him. Richards was sitting in the audience, in a comfortable-looking lounge chair, right in front of me. I hate it when I say something stupid, and I said something like "nice scarf," and he said it was a sweater. (When you want someone to like you, you should always mistake their articles of clothing for other articles of clothing. I mean, there's just no way around it.) And, no, I had no idea what kind of conversation I may have been trying to start, but that happens to me a lot, and he was really gracious about it. I also noticed that Richards was pulling his sleeves over his hands during the reading, which I take as a sign of a good person. I've read that Hitler just let his sweater sleeves hang there like they belonged to a mannequin. No one in the KKK ever wears sweaters.

At any rate, I will say that I was impressed by Reddy's signing of the books. If he is a whore, then he is a sexy French one in the watercolor tradition of can can dancers, not a slovenly hag east of Reno for whom you can pay in coins. He actually engaged whorish individuals like myself, congregating around him like hyenas around Bambi, and then wrote something in the book based on the conversation. That takes some measure of intelligence and talent.

So, it was an enjoyable night. Some people like to watch birds, but I like to watch poets. I like to watch poets, even when they are doing nothing. I think we should give our poets scientific names -- like Chicus Reddius or Daraius Weirus -- and we should talk about our sightings and have them verified by some accrediting body of experts.


Blogger Nick said...

hey roger, "poet as whore" good provocative post here. keep it up, and as my early poetry mentor suzy wong said "me love you long time!"

6:42 PM  
Blogger Lee Herrick said...

Hyenas around Bambi...I love it.

Posts like these keep me coming back for more, visit after visit. Bravo, Roger. We are, indeed, a strange lot.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Nick and Lee, thanks! It's all for entertainment, and it's nice to know that people are reading and enjoying.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Yeah, why do poetry readings start late? I thought I was just choosing the wrong ones, but it must be epidemic. Are we too cool to observe the clock, to admit that we are affected by time just like everyone else? My time is just as valuable as te businessman's or the poiticians. :-)

I'm attending one tonight in Cambridge. I'll be watching the clock...

1:29 PM  
Blogger pam said...

Blog spammers, get thee to a nunnery!

This is as sharp a commentary on the whole reading/schmoozing phenomenon as I've ever seen. You make Holden Caulfied proud.

Hey, it's called "poets' time"... only 20 minutes late? In California we're up to 30 minutes after the posted time on the average. How else do you expect us to scrounge up last minute beers and get the jump on the pre-reading schmooze?

2:17 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Amy,

Hope the Cambridge reading didn't start too late. :) I think that the sad part about readings starting late is that it can cut in on poets' reading time. Like, an hour after the scheduled start time, people can get restless, regardless of when the reading actually starts.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Pam,

Thanks!...Yeah, I've gotten close to 300 spam posts so far in the past couple weeks. I've been trying to delete them from the most recent posts. Apparently, there's some software out there that can keep them away, but I've been pressed on time recently and haven't had a chance to look into it.

Oh, I forgot all about the pre-reading schmooze, but there wasn't much of that. I think that the room depressed the audience so much that no one could summon the will until after the poets read their poems.

4:34 PM  
Blogger pam said...


I think blogger now gives you an option to have word verification before commenters are allowed to post. I've seen this on other blogs... might be worth checking out in your blogger settings to keep spammers at bay.

Yep, depressing and morbid reading venues-- they can really put a damper on things.


12:11 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Thanks for the tip!

7:19 AM  
Blogger C. Dale said...

Great post. --Juvenelius C. Dalus

10:24 AM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Dale,
Thanks! I'm glad that you (unlike some people) have been doing very well with keeping up with your blog. :) It's always a fascinating read.

6:35 AM  
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