This heading is the title given to the group reading at Moon Palace Books on Friday, November 8 2013. A strange shindig (three vastly different poets and a novelist, taking place at 4pm rather than the typical evening reading time), it did a better job of living up to the first three words of its name than the ending. Unless you think reading and writing is nerdy in general, which a lot of people do, so. For this audience member, at least, watching BL Pawelek, Carrie Lorig, Seth Berg, and Ben Tanzer read and perform came much closer to simple glory.
Moon Palace had rearranged its children’s section to make room for the panel-style reading, the four authors behind a table and flagged by walls of books. Angled rows of chairs quickly found bodies to fill them, and a healthy crowd stood behind the seats, filling in the back. The robust attendance surprised me a bit, as none of the names on the bill are bestsellers–perhaps this 4pm start time idea has some legs.
Seth Berg started things off by thanking Moon Palace Books for hosting, and encouraged everyone to buy books or make a donation. The first reader, BL Pawelek, read his poems about family and nature in a steady, easygoing voice. There appeared to be very little filter between his generous nature and his language on the page, an honest and affecting writer.
Carrie Lorig got the nod next (had to). She read four mesmerizing pieces from her recent chapbook NODS–in part inspired by Puff Daddy. As Lorig put it, “Help me Puff Daddy. Tell me what my feelings are.” Her feelings are miraculous brambles, that’s for sure–words that reflect off of one another and navigate pools they excrete as they’re spoken. While the language often borders the nonsensical, Lorig’s emotive performance steadied the underlying stem of these works and helped bring them to a powerful culmination.
Seth Berg next introduced himself, saying that the highlight of his literary career was when he first met Ben Tanzer in a bar. When he told Ben Tanzer his name, Ben Tanzer said, “The Seth Berg?” The Seth Berg then read several poems, a few from his book Muted Lines from Someone Else’s Memory and then some new poems. Berg’s style landed somewhere between that of the first two readers–he was lyrical and playful, yet kept his subject matter close to the bone. He closed with a poem dedicated to his son, which was so touching and well-timed it elicited a chorus of “Aaw” from the crowd.
Ben Tanzer‘s reputation preceded him a bit–his work on the magazine This Zine Will Change Your Life and his blog This Blog Will Change Your Life, as well as the cultish following for his many chapbooks, seemed to be one of the reasons for the hearty audience. His new book Orphans had been officially published two days before, and he provided a lengthy and charming introduction to that work (forgive the awkward video):
Tanzer then read three brief passages from Orphans. Each excerpt highlighted a different theme the book explores: the relationship between work and identity (manhood, in particular), the relationship between work and society (a robotic autocracy serves as an allegorical foil), and the relationship between work and the family (an actual duplicate self takes over your familial role when you clock in). These scenes glimpsed the harrowing world of Orphans, made all the more affecting by Tanzer’s close first-person, almost stream-of-consciousness narration.
And then the reading disbanded, plenty of time to get home for dinner.
It isn’t complicated, is it? Spend hours and weeks and years honing an expression through language, gather the requisite courage to perform it, gather some people in a room, and reveal to them the innermost workings of your psyche and imagination, your fears and desires and confusions and ecstasy. In return, the audience will understand and marvel and commiserate and congratulate, and best of all they will enjoy it. Of course it doesn’t always come to pass this way–sometimes the writer hasn’t completely honed that expression, sometimes the performers are too self-aware to make the material come to life, sometimes the audience isn’t invested (or present)… but when these factors come together: simply glorious.
Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event? Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at LitSeen.Mpls@gmail.com. Be sure to check the schedule to the right to be at the next LitSeen.org attended event.