GYPSIES, TRAMPS & WHORE: Finally getting a chance to catch you up, gentle readers, on the long weekend that has just past. Sarah Maclay, the brilliant poet and author of the collection Whore, came into Atlanta to feature at the debut of Poetry At Portfolio Center, tape an episode of The Business of Words and give a reading at Java Monkey Speaks.

When I woke up Friday morning, it was gray and drizzly...a London type of day actually, which I usually enjoy. As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated and traffic started getting worse. This was the first significant rainfall we've had in Atlanta since Katrina brushed past us, and everyone behind the wheel of a vehicle apparently forgot how to drive in wet weather. At mid-afternoon, traffic was heavy down to the airport when I went to pick up Sarah. We got got back into the city, got her checked in to her hotel and we had about two hours before we had to leave for Portfolio Center in Buckhead. I actually got inspired to write a poem after watching Uma Thurman cry on Oprah. You never know where the ideas are going to come from.

When I went to pick her up, it was raining steadily and it was rush hour. We wound up taking a long, roundabout journey that usually takes about 15 minutes, but took 45 on Friday night. At least Sarah got to see some sights. Judging from the rain and the traffic, I predicted we would have a low turnout for the first Poetry At Portfolio Center...and I was right. There was between 15 and 20 people there and we had seven people read during the open mic. And they were good poets, too, including Rupert Fike, Dustin Brookshire, Tania Rochelle, Mikel K, Will Kenyon, Ron Hughes and Geri Taran.

I have been a fan of Sara's work since Cecilia introduced me to it about a year or so ago. Whore is one of the best collections of poetry I've read in ages. It's cinematic in a David Lynch sort of way, and Sarah captures Los Angeles in all its seediness and mystery. Hearing her read the poems in a husky, sensual voice was a revelation. She did a tight set of work from the book and new work from a book in progress. After the reading, Sarah, Tania, Geri and Stan D. all went up to Mick's for a bite to eat. We dished over some poetry business (po'biz) and talked about everything from ex-lovers to eating disorders. A group of writers at a table is always a treat. I am hoping that next month's Poetry at Portfolio Center (Nov. 4 - mark your calendars...NOW!) will have a double feature: John Amen and Jackie Sheeler. If you miss this one, well, you're just crazy.

On Saturday, I slept late (as did Sarah) and then I took her on a "drive by" tour of some of downtown Atlanta. Of course, the weather had cleared and it was warm and sunny. We drove through the canyon of downtown skyscrapers, by Olympic Park, the new Georgia Aquarium, up into Midtown and by Margaret Mitchell's house and then up Peachtree into Buckhead. Then we headed up to Norcross to tape The Business of Words. The taping was a snap, Sarah read a great set and we were back in downtown in just a couple of hours. Cecilia had talked up The Carroll Street Cafe, which we used to frequent when we lived over at the lofts, so Sarah decided she had to try it. We had a great dinner and chatted about where we were in our poetry careers, making submissions, etc. Two poets talking shop would probably bore the hell out of anyone else, but it's the nature of the art.

We had planned to go up to Kennesaw State University on Saturday evening for a spoken word performance, but we were both kinda worn out. After taking naps, we decided to just go and catch a movie around the corner from Sarah's hotel at the Midtown Art Cinema. We saw The Constant Gardener, which was brilliant. Tense, political, beautifully filmed and great acting from Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. I've always loved a good John Le Carre story (The Little Drummer Girl, anyone?) and this was a top notch thriller, yet it wasn't formulaic and the end is far from feel good.

On Sunday, I just totally copped out. I was supposed to go over and finally see the Body Maps exhibit at Sycamore Place Gallery, but I just felt exhausted. Sarah decided to sleep late, then walked around the Poncey-Highland area for a bit. I slept most of the day away and it was soooo refreshing. Apologies to Sylvia for not making it over there once again. I'm a slack ass - I know. Sarah and I met up and went over to Manuel's Tavern for dinner. I had been craving a giant bowl of their Brunswick Stew for ages and it really hit the spot. Sarah had never tasted this southern delicacy and loved it so much she had two cups. We talked about our love lives, sex and politics...it's own stew. I'm between...ummm...let's call it "engagements" at the moment. I sorta want a boyfriend and I sorta don't. Sometimes no strings sex is easier and a good stress reliever, so a good fuck buddy wouldn't hurt either. I digress...

Sarah and I headed over to Java Monkey early because we knew the place would be packed because it was also the first night of the new slam season. Sure enough, it eventually turned into a packed house and there were some fabulous poets slamming. Sarah was a slam virgin and she was thoroughly entertained. The definite highlight of the evening was Jonida Beqo (aka Gypsy Yo) who tore the roof off the joint. She's Albanian, beautiful and passionate about her poetry and politics. Her work is political and offers a world view you don't often get from American writers. She was living in Albania during the chaos of the late 90s when ethnic cleansing of Albanians was happening in Serbia and refugees were streaming back into the country. She's a powerhouse performer and would have come in first if she hadn't received a time penalty for going over the allotted three minutes. Luckily, she shared the top two with Bryan Pattillo, a former slam champ, who will be missed at Java Monkey. He's leaving for Japan Thursday and won't be back until next spring.

Sarah's set at Java was almost completely different from the one on Friday night. She read old and new work, punctuated by poems from Whore, and had the audience in the palm of her hand. Usually quite raucous, the place was silently enrapt by her reading. Poet Chris Chandler compared her reading to "listening to Ingrid Bergman in a sports bar." Hilarious analogy, but spot on. Sarah was luminous and that voice had everyone's attention. Good show, Sarah!

I dropped Sarah off at the airport early this morning and then back to work. We're in production and today was stressful. However, I got to come home tonight and crash and write this account. I'm getting ready for my reading tomorrow night as part of the Hurricane Katrina Relief Benefit at Outwrite Books. I'm going to be reuniting with the Jennifer Perry Combo (at last!) for a set. Can't wait!

If you haven't already donated to a charity to aid those suffering after the devastating earthquake in South Asia (the death toll is a staggering 30,000), please give. World Vision is a reputable organization collecting money. I know money is tight, especially since America is still reeling from Katrina and Rita, but the devastation on the gulf pales in comparison to this. Along with the death toll, an estimated five million people are homeless.

Comments

Stranger Ken said…
I don't know Sarah Maclay's work at all, which is probably not surprising since it's her first collection, but I do know the two films you mention, the Russell and the Lynch. It's interesting, I think, that younger poets are drawn to representing their world cinematically and what you said about O'Hara drew me to browse a bit among those poems of his that I know:

Is it dirty
does it look dirty
that's what you think of in the city

I enjoyed your post. It seems like a great weekend was had by all!
Collin said…
Thanks, Ken. It was a fun weekend indeed.
Ryan said…
thanx 4 your input on my post i like having different peoples thoughts. your is always welcome.
Teamaster said…
Damn, Collin. Your activity reminds me of what a relative recluse I've become! :)

A table full of writers is more goofy than a barrel full of monkeys and a psychedelic bus full of Merry Pranksters. Well, almost.

Curious. What do you look for in a boyfriend? I mean: What constitutes a worthy prospect for an exclusive relationship? I'm always interested in what attracts and keeps folks sticking with partners.

-D.
Collin said…
D,

A "worthy prospect," at this point in my life, seems totally unobtainable. I have dated and been in love with some true losers...druggies, alcoholics, narcissists of the first order.

The "perfect" guy would probably be English, late 20s/early 30s, love music, poetry, films and literature, be able to hold up a conversation in any situation, have a job, a car, no hangs up with parents/ex-lovers, be sexually adventurous (and I don't mean with other people),love to travel, "get" that I'm sometimes a slave to my art and that can make me a total bitch, and call me everyday at work just to see how I'm doing. All that sounds fairly normal...it's just finding all those characteristics in the SAME person.

Sigh....
Teamaster said…
"...call me everyday at work just to see how I'm doing."

Sums it up, huh? Often it's that nuclear "little thing" that is sought in the vast, fucked up masses.

"True losers" are so common, Collin - male and female. I'm thankful to be out of the "single" life, that damned sharkpool.

Trying to find a decent date who isn't (up front or later) a cad, a creep, a monster or a cheater really helps put the myth of "the common man" or "the people" into more realistic perspective.

I hate to branch into other concerns from this (I can't help being David Herrle), but I often think THESE ARE THE CROWDS WE SHOULD ENTRUST WITH PURE MAJORITY RULES, WITH UNREPUBLICAN (NOT THE PARTY KIND) DEMOCRACY???

No way. ;)

Good luck finding that guy. It can/will happen someday.

-D.

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