Monday, November 19, 2007

Bad Times

A majority of editors these day (myself included) seem to have listened to their mothers too closely when they said "if you don't have anything nice to say..." It's rare that I print anything negative. But the Red Hen reading I went to last night was brutal. It was listed as "Red Hen Press presents a release party and reading for Soft Skull Press's new anthology, Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry."

I like Soft Skull Press and a lot of their authors (I didn't know how they were connected with Red Hen), so I thought it might be worth checking out. Apparently the editors of the anthology asked Kate Gale (editor of Red Hen) to work on a collaboration. Gale asked Terry Wolverton to work with her on the project. So the reading was loosely based on the poem that the two had in the anthology. As far as I know there wasn't anyone there from Soft Skull.

1st off, the venue was horrible, a coffee shop, with tons of background noise, an inoperable mike, and street noise off Sepulveda coming through the open doors. Gale introduced Wolverton who read a few pieces out of the anthology--her own piece, a Kerouac/Ginsberg collaboration, a couple of others. The audience was made up of a large group of her students from Writer's at Work (a workshop series she created). The reading was patronizing in a way I had never experienced. Her over animated reading of the poems, her introduction of Kerouac, her stopping mid poem to tell a worker that his actions were distracting, were all very off putting. The next reader was a former student of Gale's, Jamey Hecht. Red Hen is publishing his first book of poetry (does something seem wrong about that?). The book is 5o sonnets based on the Zaprunder films. In and of itself, the concept could be interesting, but he combined the film with his fervent theories of the JFK assassination. The poems were over the top, theatrical, smug, ridiculous. Many poems written with Kennedy as the speaker. By the time that the next reader came on we were spent. We listened to his first poem as he walked through the audience screaming and then walked out (something I can't ever remember doing before).

5 comments:

Radish King said...

Yay, Sid! There needs to be more truth telling in POETRYLAND. We can tell the truth and not be mean at all.

Rebecca, Professional Curmudgeon

ps. The very best part of this post is the word Sepulveda which I think is a gorgeous word. I put it in a poem once but the poem was too sad so I hid it.

Alan Bluehole said...

Agreed. Excellent reading review.

Jamey Hecht said...

Hi Sid
You wrote: "The next reader was a former student of Gale's, Jamey Hecht." I was never Kate Gale's student.

"Red Hen is publishing his first book of poetry (does something seem wrong about that?)." I went to KG and volunteered to read the slush pile at the LA Review. I then gave her my manuscript. She accepted it. I then became Development Associate at the press, where I successfully wrote grants for a year before moving on.

"The book is 5o sonnets based on the Zaprunder films. In and of itself, the concept could be interesting, but he combined the film with his fervent theories of the JFK assassination."
Do you mean that I expatiated on the subject of 11-22 rather than stick to the poems? I don't recall making that error; this was years ago; if I did, I apologize. If you mean that I somehow erred in the book, you're not making yourself clear.
"The poems were over the top, theatrical, smug, ridiculous."
Oh, my.
"Many poems written with Kennedy as the speaker."
Correct.
"By the time that the next reader came on we were spent. We listened to his first poem as he walked through the audience screaming and then walked out (something I can't ever remember doing before)."
That would be my friend (and fellow Red Hen Press poet) Douglas Kearney, Winner of the 2009 Whiting Award ($50k).
All best,
JH
book

blog

Amy said...

For someone who supposedly listened to their mother "if you don't have anything nice to say..." you sure didn't say positive in this entire review. Way to bash an excellent press, not to mention insulting an amazing reader, Doug Kearney. None of your judgments or opinions in this seem to have any basis, besides your own bias. You just randomly decided to say that Jamey Hecht was a former student of Kate Gale? Was this just an extra lie to spice up your story and make the press look bad? This makes me wonder how much more of this was made up. Maybe you were having a bad day when you wrote this, but I still don't understand the point of writing an entire piece just to sway people from an excellent press like Red Hen, not to mention three great poets. I hope writing this inflated your ego, because it didn't do anybody else any good.

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