Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Ray Bianchi suggests that sucking up to poets at readings, once an exclusively New York activity, has come to Chicago. I'm a little confused, though, because he seems to think the answer to this is for poets to do a better job of marketing themselves--I guess so that they could focus on that kind of public success rather than competing for scraps of attention from their elders.

I hate approaching readers at poetry readings, in part from shyness, in part from a feeling of sleaziness. Sometimes I'll work up the courage to go up to get a book signed and then I'll flee as quickly as possible, probably so that the reader doesn't think I want anything else. I love readings in unconventional locations--like Stephanie's apartment or even oxygen bars--because the setting (and size) breaks down the hierarchy a little, so that the post-reading can be more in the spirit of a conversation or a hanging-out than a supplication.

I did once go up to John Ashbery after a reading, but only after a friend and I had concocted an elaborate scheme to present Ashbery with the text of two poems we had written (these poems, in fact)--signed, of course, by the authors. Ashbery was polite about the whole thing and even seemed a little amused, but remembering doing it still makes me want to hide under a chair.

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