Brian Turner, April Ranger (host), and Rives on October 15, 2014
Curator’s post-mortem from April Ranger: Both poets agreed NOT to work from a set list, but to perform instead the poems that simply seemed appropriate in the moment, and that made for a wonderfully free-flowing evening. The rain was torrential at times, and the glass roof of the third-floor bar made a loud splattering sound that threatened to drown out the poetry! Both Rives and Brian Turner are excellent at delivering the reader or listener into the present moment, creating urgency through an unexpected image or change direction. I think of these poets as excavators: constantly examining small events in their lives, uncovering a new insight, and then lifting it for others to witness. I was excited to hear the contrast in tone between a multimedia storyteller often lauded for his comedy and a US Army veteran whose first book recounts his time spent fighting in Iraq, all while experiencing their shared knack for surprise.
Curator’s post-mortem from Taylor Mali: The new season started with a bang in September when Kim Addonizio (a veteran of Page Meets Stage from seven years ago) and Derrick Brown, the founder and publisher of Write Bloody Publishing. I made a joke in my introduction about how this was the first time in the history of Page Meets Stage that the “page” poet played a harmonica while the “stage” poet had published over 100 books of poetry (by other people, of course). The two read back and forth, and the theme of military service came up (Derrick was in the 82nd Airborne). Kim read a poem about casualties of war, and Derrick talked about this anti-suicide army MUSICAL he’d been cast in. At the end of the night (pictured above), Derrick asked Kim to play harmonica behind him while he recited a poem called “For Margaret.” I sensed the entire audience leaning forward and smiling (I certainly was!), realizing this would never happen again.
Natalie Eilbert is the author of the debut collection Swan Feast, published this year by Coconut Books. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Conversation with the Stone Wife (Bloof Books, 2014) and And I Shall Again Be Virtuous. (Big Lucks Books, 2014). Her poems and essays have been published or are forthcoming from The Kenyon Review, The Offing, Tin House, Guernica, West Branch, and elsewhere. Recently a winner of the 2015 Arkadii Dragomoshchenko Prize for Innovative Poetry through Summer Literary Seminars, she is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.
Danez Smith is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Magazine & The Poetry Foundation. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, VONA, & elsewhere. Danez is the author of the Lamdba Literary Award-winning [insert] Boy (YesYes Books) & the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). He was featured in The Academy of American Poets’ Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith. Danez is a founding member of the multi-genre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks & elsewhere. In Poetry Slam, he is a 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, the reigning 2-time Rustbelt Individual Champion & was on 2014 Championship Team Sad Boy Supper Club. In 2014, he was the Festival Director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. He holds a BA from UW-Madison where he was a First Wave Urban Arts Scholar. He was born in St. Paul, MN.
CURATOR’S COMMENT FROM TAYLOR MALI: Both of these poets are veterans of Page Meets Stage—albeit with different partners before—so they are familiar with the format. They are also familiar with each other’s work. Marie Howe was teaching at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival when Andrea Gibson was invited to be one of the performance poets. Gibson confessed on the stage that before she came out, she used to give Marie Howe poems to girls she liked just so she could watch their faces while they read them. When Andrea and I talked over a year ago, she said she would be willing to return to New York City to do Page Meets Stage, but it would have to be during June of 2014 (we don’t normally have pairings during June, July, or August). I promised I would get her a partner that would make her happy, but when I told her it would be Marie Howe, she cried (happy tears, I hope). WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE PAIRING: Pay attention to both poets reverence for the divine. Howe is Catholic, and that brand of spirituality (with tweaks & complications) is manifest in her work. Gibson has at LEAST twice been encircled by well-meaning evangelical Christians who want to “pray for her,” and that . . . GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT has informed much of her work. Lastly, if it’s a beautiful June night, the DL Lounge will retract the roof of the third floor and the ceiling will be heaven!
Marie Howe wowed readers and critics alike with her first book of poems, The Good Thief. Selected by Margaret Atwood as the 1989 winner of the National Poetry Series, the book explored the themes of relationship, attachment, and loss in a uniquely personal search for transcendence. Said Atwood, “Marie Howe’s poetry doesn’t fool around…these poems are intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget; poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.” Howe sees her work as an act of confession or of conversation. She says simply, “Poetry is telling something to someone.”
Andrea Gibson is not gentle with her truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led her to the forefront of the spoken word movement– the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam –Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.
Beau Sia is a Tony Award winning poet and world-renowned performer, featured on all 6 seasons of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and the winner of two National Poetry Slam championships. He is the author of the poetry books A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge and The Undisputed Greatest Writer Of All Time. As an educator, he has been mentoring youth for organizations such as Youthspeaks, Urban Word, and GetLit. Beau currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on his first solo play.
Bay Area native George Watsky began his unconventional career as a teen poetry slam competitor, sidewinding between self-deprecating humor, confessional storytelling and tongue-twisting lyrics delivered at high velocity. After five consecutive appearances in the San Francisco Youth Poetry Slam finals, he won the competition in 2006, and his Bay Area team went on to win the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, culminating with finals at New York’s Apollo Theater. The following year Watsky was featured on the last season of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO, and George spent the next five years performing spoken word at hundreds of colleges across the country. A 2011 video of Watsky rapping at light-speed earned him millions of YouTube hits and an invitation to perform on the Ellen show, and his lifelong passion for music took center stage. Watsky had independently produced a self-titled album in 2009, but both his 2013 album Cardboard Castles and his recent 2014 offering All You Can Do reached #1 on the iTunes hip hop charts, with the former peaking at #6 overall and the latter reaching #5. Watsky, performing with his live band Creme Fraiche, puts on a dynamic live performance that has earned him festival slots at San Francisco’s Outside Lands, Bumbershoot in Seattle, Rock the Bells, the Wireless Festival in London, and the 2014 Van’s Warped Tour, among many other stops in a young career that has already tallied nearly a thousand shows. Watsky also competed in the adult National Poetry Slam representing Providence, RI and the College Unions Poetry Slam representing Emerson College, both in 2009 and continues to incorporate spoken word poetry into his music.
This was a fantastic pairing, but if you were one of the underage folks who did not get in, we owe you an apology and a refund! So sorry! The club the changed the rules on us, but we were essentially bending the rules too far, so the fault is really ours and ours alone. Please email your Eventbrite email confirmation (or the number, or at least your name) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and as long as the ticket was never used, we will refund it.
Curator’s comment from Taylor Mali:
Sarah Kay was once my protégé, then she very briefly became my colleague, and now she is my mentor! She doesn’t quite agree with this assessment, but it’s true; when she was a teen, we used to meet for tea to discuss poetry, but now my students only think I’m cool because I know her. Her poetry, like her soul, is generous. She is a devout optimist, and that’s part of why the world loves her. But what you may not have noticed is how forgiving she is in her work of men. Her poems about her father and brother show a genuine sympathy for the masculine that I always wonder whether they deserve. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out with Zack Rogow, especially since his most recent book is largely an illumination of his mother. Rogow will be in town to watch his daughter graduate from Columbia. He is an extremely accomplished poet, and Page Meets Stage is lucky to have him. This pairing is unquestionably of the APPLES & ORANGES kind, the kind that are sometimes called “I wonder what would happen if . . .” Magic? Fireworks? Fistfight? You have to attend to find out. Join us!
Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of twenty books or plays.
Sarah Kay is a poet from New York City who has been performing her spoken word poetry since she was fourteen years old.
Sapphire lives and works in New York City, and was born in Fort Ord, California. Her first collection of prose and poetry is American Dreams, published by Serpent’s Tail/High Risk Books. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including High Risk 2: Writings on Sex, Death & Subversion; Critical Condition: Women on the Edge of Violence; and Women on Women: An Anthology of American Lesbian Short Fiction. Sapphire graduated from City College in Harlem with a degree in Dance [and an M.F.A. from the writing program at Brooklyn College], where she was the 1994 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Scholarship in Poetry.
Franny Choi is a poet, teaching artist, and author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014). She has been a finalist at the three major national poetry slams, and her work has appeared in journals including Poetry, PANK, Folio, and Solstice.
CURATOR’S POST MORTEM FROM TAYLOR MALI: A fabulous night! The two poets really worked hard to answer each other’s work. Mindy actually said she came to listen and see what came up. We really didn’t know what to expect from this pairing. Both poets have similar sense of irreverence and are not afraid of going surreal. Chang’s poems sometimes become aware of the poem as object in the middle of the poem, as if saying, “Wait. This is not coming out quite right,” and I’ve seen her use blank lines in poems (literally, like fill-in-the __________) that I have no idea how she would perform out loud. Nettiffee has a slam background, but is equally comfortable performing with a band behind her.
TINA CHANG is the Brooklyn Poet Laureate.
MINDY NETTIFEE is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer and accomplished performance poet.
Jill Alexander Essbaum is an award-winning poet whose work has been described as “John Donne in sexy underwear” and “a cross between Dorothy Parker and a lap dance.” Her first book, Heaven, won the 1999 Bakeless prize and she has published two additional full-length collections–Harlot, a collection centered around the themes of sexuality, heartbreak, and penitence, and Necropolis, a meditation on the death of her parents. Her most recent publication is a single-poem chapbook, The Devastation.
Born and raised in Southern Virginia, the house where Sean Patrick Mulroy grew up was built in 1801 and was commandeered by the Union Army during the Civil War to serve as a makeshift hospital. As a boy, Sean loved to peel back the carpets to show where the blood from hasty surgeries on wounded soldiers had stained the wooden floorboards. Now he writes poems.
Sean is a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, and his work has been published or is forthcoming in multiple literary magazines, including The Bakery, Muzzle, Nailed, The Good Men Project, and Assaracus. He currently co-hosts the Boston Poetry Slam at the Cantab Lounge, and co-curates a monthly LGBTQ reading series, Moonlighting.
CURATOR’S POST MORTEM FROM TAYLOR MALI: We have three types of pairings that we talk about while curating pairings, and this one was a little bit of all three. There are the ones we call Birds of a Feather, in which the two poets have so much in common the seem almost cut from the same mold. Then there are the Mentor pairings, in which one poet has been strongly influenced by the other. Finally, we sometimes have Apple & Orange pairings where we ask, “What do you think would happen if . . .?” Bob Holman says this pairing was also of another type that can only be called “Historic.”
Saul started with a couple poems he read out of his journal. The first one had a couple of false starts as he realized a few lines in that he was reading the wrong draft! He very graciously announced that as the “stage poet” he felt it was his job to “lower the bar and diminish expectations.” Carolyn, on the other hand, started with her most famous poem of all, “The Colonel,” and the bar was immediately raised again, and everyone in the room felt it! It’s not a competition, of course, but the back and forth nature of the format makes it feel like a friendly battle or passionate conversation. For his third poem, Saul pulled out “Children of the Night, a poem as old as his daughter Saturn (17+), which I believe I heard him read for the first time when I saw him qualify for the 1996 Nuyorican Slam Team (an electric night). This was the first poem he did from memory, and it catapulted the crowd into stratospheric delight. Carolyn took the mic after and asked, “How does he do that!?”
Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of four books of poetry.
Saul Williams is one of the most recognizable and respected voices to come out of the tradition of slam.