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).