Yesterday, Heidi Lynn Staples and I launched our latest collections at a small place named Art Town in East Lake, a part of Birmingham. Being able to host a free book launch means the world to writers, and Art Town provided us with both space, a free sound system hook-up, a food set-up, tables, chairs, dishes, plates, anything we could have imagined.
It's hard to convey the coolness of this poster designed by Craig Legg, layered on top of old movie screen canvas pilfered from the former adult cinema across the street.... and it meant so much that Craig also added this book launch on the marquis across the street. That's right, Heidi and I were billed on the old adult theater sign. Don't be jealous.
It was stupendous--and I was rendered, literally, stupid--by the opportunity to share the mic with fellow Birmingham writers and poets tonight.
Among my gratitudes, I have to mention Mojo Mamma Laura Secord and the women of Sister City Spoken Word Connection, a local writing collective that pops up whenever poetry needs to happen. I am proud to be a member and lend my voice to the many readings and fundraisers they've hosted throughout the years.
While the parents read, the kids will practice automatic drawing on the walls. Art Town has a strong penchant for surrealism, nourished by LaDonna Smith, whose multiple artistic talents include improvised violin solos, surrealist poetry, and anything her beautiful imagination conjures. This event would not have happened without LaDonna's encouragement and assistance.
Feature readers Ashley M. Jones, Jessica Smith, Maria Vargas, and Lori Lasseter Hamilton warmed the stage (and the room) with their incredible poems.
Heidi Lynn Staples read seven poems from her latest collection, A**A*A*A (Ahsahta Press, June 2018).
I read a few unpublished new poems from a collection-in-progress, including:
- "When the Nice Men Hang Their Civil War Costumes to Dry on the Line"
- "Longing in a Foreign Body"
- "Chamber Tone Poem"
- "Alabama, I Knew"
- "Sul Porticello"
And then read a few unpublished micros from a fiction collection in progress, including:
- "On being vulgar sometimes"
- "On watching a woman fight with a man who is not her husband at the park"
I finished off my set (or maybe I started) with a flash from Every Mark I Tried On, namely, "He Takes His Waking Slow," the title of which is inspired by a favorite poem by Theodore Roethke.
I love bringing poems to bear on fiction--dragging the lyric into the paragraph, changing the tempo of expectation, enlarging the possible escape route.