…And what better way to celebrate it than by listening in on our blog editor Amanda Silberling asking a few of our readers some fun questions?! Check out the below fun answers our readers came up with, and be sure to visit the journal’s reading this Saturday on the Chumley’s stage at 4:30 pm!
READER #1: TALIN TAHAJIAN, Poetry Editor.
AS: Describe what you plan to read at the festival in a rhymed couplet.
TT: Some words I’ll pass off as poetry in attempt to be posh / and probably something about summer squash.
AS: What are the best and worst things about poetry?
TT: Its ability to entice/its ability to slaughter.
READER #2: SAM ROSS, Poetry Contributor.
AS: What’s the coolest literary experience you’ve ever had?
SR: One of the coolest literary experiences I’ve had came after I wrote a poem inspired by a small Persian miniature I saw at the Morgan Library in New York City. The painting depicts a lion that is made up of a bunch of other animals, the lion’s body as a menagerie. I worked on my poem for a long time, it was probably a year before I had a draft that I was happy with. I was reading Fragile Acts by the poet Allan Peterson, and I was totally gripped. Then on page 31, Peterson writes about the same small painting of the lion! My poem is titled “Sol in Leo” and his is “The Sun in Leo.” It produced this amazing feeling of interconnection, like having the same uncommon tattoo. Poetry isn’t as solitary as it’s sometimes made out to be. You can have conversations you don’t even know about, only to catch up much later.
AS: What do you think makes a poetry reading successful?
SR: I think really successful poetry readings create a rare feeling, the I’m-so-glad-I’m here-and-not-anywhere-else. I saw Jennifer Tamayo read in Seattle with Coconut Books and felt that way. She involved the audience, she swung some sort of animatronic hand around like it was a censer, but those moves didn’t feel like gimmicks. They were fun and interesting, but they were also really connected to the work. But you don’t have to be a performer to produce this feeling. I think intention and respect for the audience are the only essentials. Even the basic tenets of public speaking (eye contact, kempt hair) need not apply. Everybody listens differently, and not all poems need to be read in a particularly demonstrative way. That said, you do have to be legible, somehow, if you want to be understood.
READER #3: J. SCOTT BROWNLEE, Poetry Contributor.
AS: You have thirty seconds to explain to someone why poetry is important — what do you say?
JSB: I’d recite Yusef Komuyakaa’s poem “Rock Me, Mercy” to them. It’s short, powerful, and relevant to the events of our time. “The river stones are listening,” Yusef writes, “because we have something to say.” It’s doesn’t get more immediate or necessary than that.
AS: If you were organizing a poetry reading and could feature any four readers, dead or alive, who would they be, and where would the reading take place?
JSB: Walt Whitman, Larry Levis, Tarfia Faizullah, and Jamaal May–and it would be on The Brooklyn Bridge (I love bridges almost as much as I love these four poets). For me, Whitman and Levis represent the best poetry written during their respective generations, and I owe a great deal to the examples they set for me (they have big, generous hearts and aren’t afraid of being vulnerable). Tarfia and Jamaal’s work, though, I think excites me more than the poets of the past I revere–because it’s linked to what is happening now. They’ve also mentored me and given live readings I’ve attended and will never forget… and are fabulous humans, in general.
So, there you have it! There’s a glimpse at a few of our super-cool, super-talented New York City Poetry Festival readers this year. Be sure to attend the reading on Saturday at Governor’s Island, NYC, to learn more! (Or, of course, follow this blog. Ahem.)