Nighttime in Manhattan, and you're looking for an experience that will stir your thoughts and open your heart. These days, there are more and more places to hear live poetry, open mike. The readings are like a New York potluck, you never know what everyone will bring. Some poets use drums, some sing. It is not unusual to hear rap, sonnets, free verse and beat poetry all at a single reading.
OUT AND ABOUT: IN MANHATTAN
La Poeme on the corner of Prince Street and Elizabeth in SoHo and Cornelia Street Cafe on Saturdays are just two of the many places to read and listen. On a viciously cold Tuesday night we went to the Anarchy Cafe on 3rd Avenue between St. Marks and 9th Street. It is a peaceful place. The food is Italian, gold spirals adorn the green tiled ceiling. Mismatched antique wooden chairs sit around the simple wooden tables that recede along one wall. Candles in glass glimmer on the white tablecloths. At the opposite wall, a long table was provided for the poets. Readings happen here every Tuesday night from 6 to 8.
Bob Abramson, publisher of the New Press Literary Quarterly, has run the series for three months. He hosted the reading, which was supposed to start at 6 but began very casually as poets filtered in from throughout the boroughs. The result was intimate and conversational, a space in which poets were encouraged to get to know each other and read around the table. We went around twice, and the poems picked up power as the readers became more comfortable.
Abramson handled the evening's slow start with experienced enthusiasm. I was delighted with the talent that I heard, Abramson himself beginning the night with his own cadent, often political insights into city life. His poems face reality with wit and compassion.
Tim Herrick, author of the chapbook "I Is Another," revealed depth and tenderness with:
\o7 Love is a violin bow laceration that memory can always peel open. \f7 Thaddeus Rutkowski played with paragraph form and rhythm, drawing us in. He wrote, in a poem titled "Pictures at an Exhibition":
\o7 Looked for God in the details. Then noticed all eyes were on me. Went out basically the way I came in.\f7
He is the author of "Beautiful Youth," a book of poems.
Pascale Cousselard, occasional co-host of various readings with Abramson, read briefly and beautifully. And there was another poet present whose work was a joy to hear. His name is Geoff Bouvier and he is the author of "Rare Future." One of the passages that struck me reads:
\o7 A far off hum of mornings unbegun that I would half-sleep through the darkness in, aware of strips cut red. Along my dreaming back, a slickened curve of dolphins diving\f7 . . . This reading was a pleasure, especially because it managed, simultaneously, to be relaxed about itself and serious about poetry.