IOWA-PART TWO: THE REVENGE
Back To The Lecture At Hand....
It was Saturday night and poets Derrick Brown, Beau Sia and I were performing at The Mill in Iowa City during The Mission Creek Festival. Beau opened with a killer rendition of his famous piece, "Deep" and ended with What Must (really for real) Be Said a poem titled, “Don’t Fuck Your Students,” a call to teachers, coaches and educators to NOT to have sexual relationships with their students. Like, ever. Not even after that student is not your student anymore. This is a subject that is all too prevalent in the poetry community. But Harriet's not ready for that conversation just yet. And this post isn't a commercial for "How To Catch A Predator." It is a life's pamphlet on how to Get (spiritually) Rich Or Die Tryin'.
During the show, we sent shots of whiskey to members of the audience and toasted them. (On one occasion I did a shot of milk with a non-drinker, and on a second occasion, a woman said to me "I'm straight edge and vegan. Now what?" I planted a phat kiss on her mouth and said, "Now you're a Dairy Queen"). Between poetry sets and shenanigans we stopped for a dance break--
Which reminds me, are you reading this while listening to music? YOU BETTER BE.
Beethoven or Bone Thugs, I don't care, just put it on--
We treated bar stools like ex-lovers, the microphone like a current mistress. Threatened the roof to tear itself off or we would. I asked a cigarette to stop talking shit about me and step outside so we could handle this mano a mano. We heckled each other, held each other's breathes. I sat motionless when Beau read a poem to his Mother and Derrick read a poem from his future death bed. I kept a promise to poet Dora Malech and made a new promise to Prince (I will ALWAYS play you first to get a dance party started). By the end of the poems, we put on the song “C.R.E.A.M.” and invited any stragglers on stage to dance with us to the best 90s jams an ipod could hold. Newly printed out pages of poems I had read were scattered across the stage floor as people danced on them, digging their boots and heels in. (The next morning I would pull these pages out of my bag and look at all the foot prints and holes like gospel-shrapnel and smile). Around 2:45am, Derrick and I hovered over his ipod as Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was coming to an end but the dancing was not. "There’s nothing left!” He said to me, frantic. “Iowa just took R&B to the limit!!!!!!!!”
I woke up with bruised knees, only one earplug in (maybe I swallowed the other one in my sleep?) and a room that looked like a library bomb went off in it. A library in a brothel. In a Staples Supply Store. In Iowa.
Beau Sia and I had breakfast and said goodbye to Derrick who was headed to the airport. We began to mentally prepare for our final and most important event of the weekend: Was The Word with the Iowa Youth Writing Project. We lead a workshop for teens with emphasis on performance. That evening they were going to perform their pieces at the gorgeous and large Englert Theater and for many of them, this would be their first public reading ever. Beau focused on physical and vocal exercises, teaching the kids how to prepare for a performance. How to use their diaphragm, how to stand tall and use their nerves as a tool. I worked on helping each kid find their style— how did they want to say what they wanted to say? Could people in the back hear them? Should they slow down? Should they speed up? It was a two hour intense course on finding one’s own voice. And that night when they performed for friends, family, and the spectacular driving forces behind the show, D.A. Powell and Dora Malech, we were all blown away at how far they’d come.
One of the great moments of this week was standing backstage with Beau and Powell discussing modern technology and social media as applied to poetry. I think Powell would find Craig Santos Perez's fantastic article here on Harriet, I Saw The Best Minds Of My Generation Destroyed By Facebook very interesting. Powell and I share some deeply kinetic thing. I can't put my genius on it. The fact that he seems to always be carrying a manilla folder with him every time I see him. The soft brushfire in his eyes. He stands like a poet. Physically, he stands like Jack Hirschman or Jeffrey McDaniel when they are intensely listening.
So here we are now, coming full circle in the story. Beau Sia and I once again, after an amazing workshop, had to make a decision to make. Do we go back to our hotels and fall asleep for 24 hours straight before heading to the airport, or do we go meet up with Joe and other organizers, friends and poets from the event? At this very moment of contemplation, I received a text. It was Derrick Brown. His flight was canceled. "I'm coming back to Iowa City from Cedar Rapids and have two questions for you: 1. May I stay with you tonight since I have nowhere to crash and 2. DO YOU PARTY?"
We all met up at a bar to celebrate a fantastic week of music, poetry, dancing and anything with day glow capability. We put on "Tennessee" by Arrested Development (THAT'S YOUR CUE TO DO THE SAME) and started dancing around the pool table. We shared stories of events, books or people we didn't get a chance to encounter or we did, and wanted to share with others: Tim Hecker's live performance of new work in a completely dark church, the readings of Mike Doughty and Lindsay Hunter, that new Eileen Myles book Snowflake (Good Lord, what a beautiful piece of work). Brad Liening. The Sunday morning cajun brunch. The 4 a.m. burritos. Brad Liening. Again. We were all tangled up in language and the scent of dive bar combined with wafting gusts of willow and corn husk. The bartender Alexi was pouring shots left and right and plugged his laptop into the main sound system in the room. Derrick and I jumped up on a booth and assumed pussy-popping position (a man can do that too, you sexist pig. (Or piglet.))
"ALEXI, PUT ON SOME JACKSON 5!!" Derrick screamed over the crowd of artists ready for a ruckus.
"ALEXI, DON'T DO THIS!!" I Screamed back, "YOU DON'T WANT THIS ALEXI! PUT ON SOME ENYA! LET'S KICK THIS DOWN A NOTCH!"
Derrick pushed my face away, "ALEXI, NOW IS THE ONLY TIME! DO IT, ALEXI! PLAY JACKSON 5!! IT'S TIME FOR SOME SHIRTS TO COME OFF!!!!!"
"ALEXI IF SHIRTS COME OFF I WILL HAVE NO CONTROL OVER MY RIGHT HAND AND THIS RED SHARPIE PEN! DON'T LET SHIRTS COME OFF ALEXI, DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!"
And as Beau Sia says in his poem Deep:
Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn was born in Venice, California. She is the author of the poetry collections Free Stallion (2005), winner of the Borders Book Choice Award for Breakout Writing, and Bang Ditto (2015). She self-published the poetry, art, and photography collections Plenty of Ships and Of the Dawn, and...