Oct 9, 2006


I am not a poet. I have never been a poet. I have never claimed to be a poet. I wrote a novel and was booked to read it last night.

Last night wasn't the best. It isn't that I can't take criticism. I mean, hello, I'm a writer. I put it out there, it either gets knocked down or propped up or something in-between. Criticism is fine. Many thing lined up to make me reding at the Green Mill last night less-then-ideal and while I might be inclined to let this go and forget the whole thing, the high-volume of comments on my previous post waiting moderation in my inbox last night and flurry of emails from total stranger in support of me last night, well, it leads me to believe that I should address this en blog. So it goes.

So, a the featured performer slot was arranged and I entered into it under the impression that the persons organizing the spoken word event at the Green Mill were aware I was reading from my novel, not reading poetry. I am told that this was emphasized when this date was booked. Okay.

I am aware at this point, that many people I know, peripherally know, and a few members of the local press are in attendance, as I did make a point to invite them, or they were invited, respectively. I set up my books, my mailing list, and such at a table with two friends and get ready to listen to the open-mic entrants. Still perfectly okay.

The organizer botched my name. No biggie. Then, nobody, not one soul before or after me said anything about themselves or their work before starting. They just dove right in. Now, those of you who know me are aware that I have improv and performance art and readings and all of this sort of thing in my background. I've been doing things on stages in front of people for almost fifteen years, no exaggeration. So, I don't worry about that. I just don't. Anyway, I had no introduction, other than my name, so in hindsight, this perhaps meant there was some question as to whether I was reading poetry or a novel or a bedtime story or what. But, I wasn't thinking that right then. I was thinking about being a little nervous, which happens from time to time and isn't a big deal at all once I start. It's natural, no big deal and i am perfectly content to be myelf in front of a crowd of people. I was thinking reading in a place I've alwasy wanted to read. What I realized was that to this crowd, "book" means something you staple together or are included in, not always but generally.

So, I keep my chatter brief. I did not talk about the strange people that have been emiling me, I did not talk about the threat of my novel being banned by the church ladies writing angry letters, I did not read any of the crazy emails they, or anyone else, has writtten to me. Succinctness was the order of the day, so I said a minimal couple of things and began.

Nearly at the end, snapping fingers began. Snapping fingers that were explained at the beginning of the show that meant this sucks, you suck, this feels like an eternity, hurry up or worse get off the stage. A couple of snapping fingers then became whispering. A few people caught on to this and started to counter-cheer and the clicking fingers stopped for the most part, though one man in the back kept going.

Look, my readings are lively, I encourage hecklers, shouting, throwing things, audience participationg, etc. It isn't like I require, ask for, or even want a quiet little reading. No. But, this crowd was here for slam poetry where you do this sort of thng and I was struck with the realization that they didn't think I was reading from my novel, they thought I was reading really long, disjointed poetry. Shit.

The night deteriorated from this point and the host, I feel, was condescending to me and the young poets, oh the talented, hopeful poets, they skipped right along with him, doing anything he conveyed to them, never even thinking to think against the man who invented slam poetry, never thinking it was going to far, even when he took to the stage to criticize me and my "poetry selection", even when, in a crowd he encouraged all night to shout and stomp and yell, someone in my group said, simply, that it wasn't poetry and was called, through a microphone, an asshole and was berated for several minutes. Even when my touring was doubted and dismised, even when I wasn't asked but was told and had assumptions pushed on me, even when I was talked to like a teenage notebook paper poet, even when the credibility of my publisher came into question and "academics" are a fucking problem because we can't and don't understand poets and their artform. Even then, it was comedy to them.

The press I was aware of (other than one directly in my group) was gone, my friends and acquaintences stormed out, with the exception of the few who stayed with me until it was over. What? You didn't think I would leave, did you? Fuck no. I sat there and didn't pack up a single book until the band packed up their stuff.

On the upside... I feel like I read well--- not read for this venue by their rules, but read my way, the way I do it, and the way my book gets read by me.

Read how Leah described the evening. She was there. She knows.

So, that's the deal. It was what it was and it's now over. Everyone did a nice job. I really liked a wonderfully gross little tale one fellow did about his birth on a beach with a drunk father. The guy who mentioned Catholic shool and tzittzit was very good, too.

I am still not a poet.

I have one hell of a story of Milwaukee later in the week. That's for sure.


diane said...

You seem to have contextualized it and shaken it off. Go Guth, Go Girl!
(confesses to obsessively refreshing Amy's blog all morning to get the scoop)

Amy Guth said...

Diane, you're funny.

Leah said...

Um... no mention of Nesto in the whole post?

Or Dasha? or the best jukebox in Chicago?

Or my hangover... oy.

Amy Guth said...

How could I have overlooked that? Shit, man. Yeah, I did unwind with a little vino post-spectacle. And Nesto decided to fall in love/lust with Leah, not that he can be blamed for that, but he did and he did it with a flourish! Then, I confused the shit out of him by convincing him that I was the novia of everyone present. At least he made his grand advances with Fishbone and Jane's Addiction as his soundtrack. In the movie version, I can't forget to include that.

I have a wicked hangover and didn't get fucked up. Yay for me. Ha.

dana the Poetess said...

How can you just shake all that shit off, chica? Do you take valium? Yoga? Or do you just not give a shit?

kiera said...

no shit i thought that last night i was like what how is this chick not flippin out on his ass. you are too chill

Amy Guth said...

Dana and Kiera. Thanks for coming by my blog last night and for checking back today and for commenting. Always appreciated and welcomed! (Why were you home and not out and about afterwards?)

It isn't that I don't give a shit. I just pick my battles and stick to the high road. It's a pretty good system for me.

Leah said...

Also--you might have noticed a strange glow from our table as we sent massive amounts of txt messages keeping each other in check.

Tracy said...

Having been there, I can say that you were treated most unfairly and with a total lack of respect. Regardless of what one might think of a particular piece, I would think a room full of artists (or wanna-be's) would be a little more welcoming and understanding. It felt like being in a room of drunk pre-schoolers. The host-guy was a jerkface. I had to leave before I threw something at him. Your reading was beautiful. I will never go there again.

Vicki - Amy's Mom said...

I hate it when someone messes with my kid. I especially hate it when that someone is a complete asshole. From all I have heard and read, you certainly kept it together a lot better than most people would have.
I firmly believe that whole "What goes around, comes around" thing. And Dear, I hope you are there to witness it when this Rat Bastard gets his.
Forget him, he is nothing and will probably do nothing more in his miserable life.
I do think he owes you an apology at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Wish I could claim to be surprised by any of this.

Poets, as a general rule, tend to be self-involved assholes.

Kristin said...

This is when you get your camera phone out. Without any overt intention other than taking a photo of them, click away one by one. If asked why, tell them they'll know if they ever happen to see you in their workplace. No one really has time for that, but the clicking alone really disrupts people. Just an idea.

Nicky said...

I wish I had been there. Cartwheels of rage would have ensued.

Wings said...

I truly feel bad that the event didn't pan out for you, but I am a little befuddled. Sunday night at the Green Mill is known as a literary farce with a sophomoric mentality. I'm not quite sure why you wanted to read there. I hope you have another reading in the city in the near future. I would love to hear you read in someplace other than a zoo (actually Lincoln Park Zoo or the cafe on North Pond would be a nice venue)

katie schwartz said...

so gracious and such moxie. very inspiring, ag.