Why now? Because I couldn’t resist the idea of this anthology, and I can’t wait to get my copy. Imagine: an extremely diverse group of poems written by a very diverse assortment of poets, all about this one small city, and living in it! How could anyone not want to read that?
My poem is a description of my experience taking part in the Guerrilla Poetry aspect of last November’s Words Festival of the Creative and Literary Arts. Tom Cull, who has just now become the city’s new Poet Laureate, created this very weird, strange and scary (for such a shy person as me) event. Four little groups of readers ventured out on the streets of downtown London to startle unprepared pedestrians with poetry. My group contained Tom, Andy Verboom (who is now a member of London Open Mic’s organizing committee), and a wonderful, humourous reader named Aileen House.
Prior to the event, two Facebook friends, Donald Brackett and Al Broudy, suggested I read Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and so I did, two poems called Dog and Underwear. They were perfect for the situation. I had never read Ferlinghetti before and one of the pleasures of the event for me was reading a lot of his poems in advance, as well as ones by other poets I had never touched before. Reading them casually, just to see if they would be appropriate, instead of tackling their intricacies and profundities with as much mental force and energy as I could muster, which is my normal reading strategy, allowed me to just enjoy them, to let them sneak up on me and go, “BOO!” So now I read poetry like that all the time, on my first reading, and then bear down on the second. Big lesson.
Plus, I and my shyness survived doing it.
I AM STANDING ON A CRATE READING LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
I am here now. This
is no longer an alternate future, or someone else's.
I am stretched up tight on this crate
looking down at these
my spine hard against
the stone edge
of Starbuck's window wall,
buffeted by wind and buses
that bellow around this cold corner--
this dark Richmond and Dundas
where I would not be.
Yet I am only two barefoot beatnik blocks down
from City Lights Book Shop
nicely named for Ferlinghetti's own,
in Frisco way back then.
And now up on the crate I too am wearing
that F-beard in which he preached to his
beat colleagues passion
for all these dead poor
these no fame no friends
these leaning here into the slow tide of the block
drifting through time's
pool out of jail for a while
getting by as if free
to like each other or one or some.
I am calm standing on this crate,
wearing this body here now
like someone else's or no one's--
and anyway no one looks at me; my eyes
are always in the book, my ears on my sonorous
voice; and elsewhere
enticing his empathetic, liberal
Empty out our pockets
Missing all our appointments..."
No one hears.
And these, with no appointments
to miss, don't care.
His friends aren't here.
Even so, we few crate poets
yes we have left our safe homes
our cars in the overnight lots
our cell phones in our pockets
and like Ferlinghetti we do our hour
up on our soap boxes
dropping loud words
down into the block.
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