What a Few People Want to Say to the World

by Abigail (’14)

On December 16, Mykel, Midori and I went to a reading from Carville Annex. It was held in the Arboretum, in the redwood grove, which is difficult to find. I showed up early at the entrance and met some of the readers. None of them were sure about how to get to the redwoods. “We were hoping Sarah knew.”

Sarah Fontaine showed up. “Hey, where are we going?” we asked her. “Well…I don’t really know,” she said. So we started wandering. I noticed a sign that said, “Redwood Grove,” with an arrow, but nobody else seemed to. I was walking behind them, and they were too far away for me to mention it… Since they had they the map, I figured they knew what they were doing. Not really, but whatever. Someone said, “Even if nobody figures out where the reading is, they’ll have a great time walking around with the plants!”

“Yeah!”

“This place is rad, right? I love the weather!”

“Yeah!”

The entire reading had, in some ways, the tone of this conversation. Everybody was happy to be there, and everybody liked and trusted everybody else. The readers were all young—two were high school students, the rest were maybe twenty to twenty-eight. Many of the pieces were about not knowing how to be a good adult, or not knowing what the author’s place in the world was, but the readers were figuring it out… they were getting there. They were enjoying themselves along the way.

the halcyon bird, or Kingfisher

One of the pieces, a “sermon” for the holidays—“’Tis the goddamn season,” it began—explained (convincingly and hilariously) the importance of paying attention to one thing at a time. Apparently, “the ancients” believed that, for a few days during the holiday season, birds called Halcyons floated in nests on the sea, keeping it calm so people could celebrate. The author said that, this year, she’d celebrate the season by not multitasking— she’d try to live some halcyon days.

Her fellow readers seemed to be living halcyon days, too. They were all calm and appreciative and earnest and fully present. Which you don’t get often at your average reading.

It was nice to hear my friend Annakai read (I hadn’t in a long time) and it was also nice to sit with Midori and Mykel, listening, in such a pretty spot. Birds kept popping out of the surrounding bushes, flying past the readers’ faces, then disappearing again. There were more great things about it, but it would make a very long blog post to talk about them all. Midori said it was the best reading she had ever gone to, and Mykel and I agree, so keep an eye out for more.

The title of the reading was “What a Few People Want to Say to the World.” I wish I could quote the first piece read, which was Sarah’s, but the gist of it seemed to be that self-promotion is only gross when it’s egotistical—when it’s just because you want to tell people about yourself, it’s helpful, and bigger than yourself, and necessary. The readers were all happy to be included in the “few people,” and they were confident that they were talking to a larger audience than just the people in the redwood clearing.

wayne koestenbaum at city lights

“Wayne Koestenbaum’s brilliant new collection is like a lurid coloring book of Fauvist Depravity. Playfully perverse, his poems reinvent the lyrical, satirical barb for our moment. And they’re as telling as they are outrageous. Where else could we meet the ‘Mrs Robinson of Abstract Expressionism’ or experience the joy of biting “the wolfman’s wombat ass.” This scholar of excess is off the cuff, over the top, and always on the money!” — Elaine Equi

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Read his bio on poets.org

Here is a quote about his new work from Publilshers’ Weekly:

“In his sixth book of poems, Koestenbaum takes a hilarious and dirty look at the underbelly of culture in America in poems that are raunchy, mean, darkly funny, and a joy to read. Flirting, and often going to bed, with nonsense, these poems, many set in sectioned-off couplets or tercets, poke fun at everything Koestenbaum’s capacious intelligence seizes, drawing together elements as disparate as dairy and philosophy (“The heavy cream went bad. I read aloud/ a Lacan line about the stupid signifier”) and Barbra Streisand and Stravinsky (in a memorable suite of imaginary album titles: “Streisand Sings Stravinsky/ Streisand Sings Schoenberg/ Streisand Sings Chomsky”). He pushes the limits on all sorts of subjects, including Eros between men (“The Ass Festival” is simply too dirty to quote) and high fashion (“Guilt: I bought Dior/ Homme silver/ sneakers”). But these are not just dirty jokes for dirty jokes’ sake: Koestenbaum achieves something powerful in this book, in which anger, sarcasm, self-deprecation, and desire are all swept into a kind of emotional whirlwind that feels deeply authentic and nakedly human. These poems are beautiful in spite of themselves.” -Publishers Weekly, 02/20/2012

To read more go to the City Lights events page.