Where to start? And how?
Let’s suppose (for today) that this all started when the parents of John Dorsey met and a little baby John Dorsey was born. Then let’s say we flash-forward some years (hoping I get this story straight) to when the aforementioned Mr. Dorsey was completing a residency at the Osage Arts Center in Belle, MO. Perhaps then came a cold and dark night in the winter of 2016 as a poetry reading was held at the aforementioned Osage Arts Center and brought together from Kansas City and St. Louis (and other locales) a group of writers known to the aforementioned Mr. Dorsey. Some of these writers may have had names like: Brett Underwood, Shawn Pavey, Stefene Russell, Jeanette Powers, Brandon Whitehead, Jim McGowin, Jason Ryberg, & Jameson Bayles. Literary kinships were kindled and the writers went their wanton way, back to their cloistered cities to plot and scheme.
And what foul and flowing plots did froth over from their fiery minds.
The aforementioned Mr. Bayles (with the help of the aforementioned Mr. Ryberg) dreamed and delivered The Kansas City Poetry Throwdown in April 2016.
Not to be outdone, the St. Louis schemers upped the literary ante by programming and producing 3 high-caliber events of poetic repute from which we are all attempting to recover. I have no idea how I got invited along but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so, for the weekend, I composed a lengthy protest poem entitled America Hates You, America which I split into 3 parts to be read across the 3 events. I hope to put up a link to AHYA in the near future.
Event Space: Joe’s Cafe Gallery
This space is like Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I want to move my family here. Inside we met old friends. We made new friends. The aforementioned Jeanette Powers read some poems. I read some poems. The aforementioned Shawn Pavey then the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead read some poems. Don’t believe me? Here is live footage of the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead reading:
Then came Leyla King (8th grade!!!) and finally the aforementioned John Dorsey brought the house down.
Interspersed between the poems, the collective musicians from Poetry Scores played and Holy Whitman, mother of Ginsberg! were they awesome. They translate poetry into other media, essentially turning poems into songs and sometimes scoring longer poems. I had a smile on my face from start to finish. Definitely check them out.
Event Space: Paul ArtSpace
This space lies on the northern outskirts of St. Louis and is a lovely house with land that provides residencies to artists and hosts various events. The Executive Director, Mike, is a true champion for creatives. The aforementioned John Dorsey is this week finishing up a residency there. Another resident at Paul ArtSpace is the crazy talented Lizzy Martinez. The poetry part of the night kicked off with a jaw-dropping performance by Treasure Shields Redmond which was followed by a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking performance by Cheeraz Gormon. After those two talented gals finished melting our faces, poems arrived from the aforementioned Shawn Pavey and the aforementioned Brandon Whitehead and Matthew Freeman and Nathaniel Farrell and Victor Clevenger and me and the aforementioned John Dorsey and the aforementioned Brett Underwood and Anna Lum and WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWO goddamn goddamn! By the end of the night, we were reading by flashlight around a bonfire.This event was how you wished every party you ever went to popped off: tons of people with creative energy swirling together, laughing, having beers, and making plans to bring wild things into this world.
Event Space: Bellefontaine Cemetery, at the grave-site of William S. Burroughs
What a beautiful place to read. Bill is buried right next to his grandfather and father. Reading at this event were the aforementioned Victor Clevenger, the aforementioned Anna Lum, the aforementioned Jim McGowin, me reading a piece by Charlie Zero, the aforementioned John Dorsey reading some wholly apropos poems by Everette Maddox, and the aforementioned Brett Underwood closing with a perfect piece by Burroughs himself.
Event Space: Our Heads
An odd place to find oneself after such a sequence of happenings. A very odd place indeed.
Thank you to all the folks in St. Louis for putting everything together. I’m humbled to have been involved and inspired to make better words because of it. Can’t wait to have you all (and more) back to Kansas City.