Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fresh April Air

Tonight at 9:00 I’ll be joining three other poets, Mara Leigh Simmons, Autumn Choi, and Kathy Godfrey, for a reading at The New French Bar in downtown Asheville. It’s part of the “Fresh Air” series organized by poet Jaye Bartell. The readings occur on the first Wednesday of every month; I caught last month’s and it was great fun. I must acknowledge that I learned of the series only last fall, when Jaye and I both read as part of the celebration of Allen Ginsberg’s
Howl at the Center* but, having helped organize a few readings myself, I’m impressed by the fact of the persistent scene, and understand what that says about the energy, intelligence, and commitment Jaye’s brought to its organization. Jaye explained what led him to develop the series in a statement earlier this year that marked the beginning of the second year of the series:
"Open mics” had long been nearly the only forum for public readings in Asheville. A reader shared the corner of a coffee shop dining room with acoustic guitarists and stand up comedians. Slams were another option, although occurring less consistently than open readings. Again, however, for one simply wishing to perform or otherwise share his or her work with friends and interested others, the competition and stylistic homogeneity of slams were endured, not enjoyed, by those unconcerned with art as sport. The evenings allowed for a focused performance on the part of the writer, a chance to arrange a program of pieces and present them to a "voluntary” audience, an audience interested in the show as billed.
Jaye seems to have had a clear sense of what the poets of various intentions whom he knew required in order to find such a situation congenial. The poets at the reading I heard last month clearly relished their presence there, and the “voluntary” audience clearly appreciated the event for what it was.
Simply, people had writings, some born of a deliberate, focused vocation, others a personal, less structured activity. Strangely, many who attended, including me, found that the evenings epitomized poetry in the classic sense of a reading, with all the butt-smoke and low lights most of us had only heard about in satires. … All could be told by saying meaningful occurrences happened by simple congregation and some words spoke.
“Some words spoke.” It’s the primordial occasion of poetry, sharing the particularizing, renewing music of this special mode of speech. If you’re out and about tonight, join us there.


* That’s the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, of course.

Alice Sebrell took the photo of Jaye reading at last December's celebration of "Howl".

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Blogger Rod said...

hello Jeff,

I saw your post about Bob Creeley, excellent piece. I'm currently working on a Selected Letters of Creeley for U Cal Press. If you have any letters from Bob would be very pleased to see them. You can contact me at

Rod Smith

10:33 AM  
Blogger theseus said...

hey Jeff,

Great reading last night! I thoroughly enjoyed it, one of the best Fresh Air's I've been to,


8:23 AM  

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