Percussive raindrops beat like anticipation on the sidewalk outside the Bowery Poetry Club. People came in from the streets dripping with water and generally looking like they had been swimming in their clothes. There was energy popping in the air as musicians set up their instruments, and poets passed their poems to each other for last-minute critical review. On any other night, the cold winter rain might’ve put a chill on the spirit of things. But not on Wednesday, December 11th.
Torrential downpours be damned, there was a show to do.
The LitKicks BongoBeat Wintertime Poetry Happening got kicked off to a start by Levi, RALPH and Lauren Agnelli, who welcomed the crowd and gave everybody an idea of what was in store.
The first of the LitKicks crew to read was Lucy, (Gothic-Hippie-Chic), and she had the crowd charmed from the moment she took the stage. She read three pieces, “Angry Love”, “He Crept Out of My Bed at Sunrise”, and closed with “Roaster Boy” (which appeared as “Crush” on the Action Poetry Board). She read her poems with a lot of energy and got the reading off to a highly enthusiastic start.
Levi introduced the “cantankerous and fun” in_extremis who read three poems from his “Scenes from Our Bedroom” series and a prose piece, “Winter Solstice Sketch”. His reading was quiet and serious, and the pieces he chose were clear and strong, like winter itself.
Then Paul Hyde (formerly of the Payolas) made his first NYC appearance in 20 years, drinking a beer, playing his guitar, and performing a fantastic set that included songs like “I Miss My Mind the Most” and “Drunken Lover”. His set was amazing and heartfelt, and added perfectly to the evening’s eclectic group of performers.
After Paul Hyde left the stage, David Amram came up to back the next group of readers from LitKicks. The first of these was Liz, (a.k.a. ChiLiPhiSh), who read a short prose piece centered around her great-grandmother’s death. Her writing is honest and strong, and her voice was a great addition to the event.
Juliana Harris was the next to take the stage, and the first piece she read was a collaboration that originally appeared on Mindless Chatter on November 8th, which she (appropriately) titled November 8th. It was a perfect view for the non-LitKicks crowd present at the reading of what kinds of things take place on the boards, and was a smooth representation of the myriad voices and thoughts that make up the LitKicks community. Her next piece was a moving poem, titled Dear John…Forever Young You Bastard, which strings together memories and emotions dealing with the senseless death of a friend. The sad smile on her face as she read the final few lines of the poem, accompanied by David Amram’s quiet piano, made for one of the evening’s more powerful moments.
After another glimpse of what the LitKicks crowd had to offer, RALPH (of BongoBeat) took the stage. Backed by the David Amram trio, RALPH performed three poems, and his delivery was sleek, stylish, and oh so fun. He’s like a walking homage to the beats, and his smooth reading, accompanied by David Amram, engaged the crowd and had them tapping their toes and snapping their fingers. Cool? Definitely.
RALPH’s a tough act to follow, but then suddenly I was on the stage, following. I set up my first piece by drawling something sarcastic about having a three-day panic attack, garnering a few chuckles from the crowd. Then I read “unleashed thoughts: anxiety”, the product and way out of said panic attack. Next, after explaining that since I can’t draw people (unless they’re of the stick variety) I write my drawings, I read an ultra-short sketch, “Sleep Peacefully, Young Man”, a word picture of a young man alone in bed on a winter morning.
The David Amram Trio took over again, playing the legendary “Pull My Daisy” to cheers and applause from the audience. The fun Amram was having was clear on his face as he performed, and it was a joy to watch him in action.
Next up was Firecracker, who read two poems, “Speculation”, and “Apology”. Backed by the David Amram Trio, Firecracker read her pieces slowly, letting the audience savor the weight of emotion behind each line.
Levi was the next to take the stage, and he presented his recent Poetry and Politics post, “Pure Aggression”. His piece was rhythmic, and it was definitely great to hear him read it aloud. As he’d say “I’m just gonna smile and let it go,” he’d grin up at the audience, and the audience would grin back.
Then George Wallace (poetrybay) came up for a jazzy performance of a couple of his poems. He’s recently collaborated with David Amram on a CD to accompany his new book of poems, and as he read, the trio’s music perfectly punctuated the images in his pieces.
Then it was time for the evening to get even more musical. Mark McCarron (on guitar) and his wife Suzanne Mueller (on cello) kicked off a long set of musicians beautifully. Following their harmonious performance, Dave Rave and Lauren Agnelli took over, performing a series of love songs in a sort of tag-team musical whirlwind. Afterwards, the David Amram Trio came back and played more, rounding out a great series of musical performances.
Bob Holman, owner of the Bowery Poetry Club, took the stage with an apology to the crowd for his broken ankle, saying that he wouldn’t be able to treat us with his usual acrobatics. But as he laid out his poem (a 72nd birthday tribute to David Amram), the fact that he stood mostly in one place didn’t matter. With his gravelly voice and cane periodically pointed at the audience to punctuate his reading, Holman’s performance was absolutely incredible. He’s an amazing showman, to be sure.
Finally, it was time for the show to wind down to a close. David Amram called up all the evening’s performers for a tribute to Jack Kerouac. Amram read a brief paragraph Kerouac had once penned, then returned to his keyboard to begin the song. When he got to the chorus, performers and audience alike joined him in singing “this
song’s for you, Jack”, and it was great to hear all those voices coming together to honor a hero.
An awesome end to an awesome night. Ya dig?
See the pictures…
David Amram and Levi talk before the show.
Some of the crowd.
A girl and her hat…
in_extremis and Juliana Harris
Firecracker and ChiLiPhiSh
Post-show mingling. (Gothic-Hippie-Chic, Jamelah, smhppp)
Read others’ reports of the event: