Thursday, June 07, 2007

A few quick notes & photos of last Sunday’s reading in memory of Gil Ott & to celebrate the publication of the first winner of the annual Gil Ott poetry award, Tim Peterson. Robin’s Books, long & thin as it is, isn’t always the best place for a large reading, and there’s a real advantage to sitting up front.

CA Conrad, Tim Peterson, Eli Goldblatt

Craig Allen Conrad, whom nobody in Philly calls Craig (it’s either CA or Conrad) organized this event, not once but twice since a Nor’easter took out the first day in April. It was raining on Sunday too as another, more modest Nor’easter barreled through, tropical depression Barry. Conrad got things started by playing a tape of Gil singing. Tim Peterson read from Since I Moved In, the award winning volume. And Eli Goldblatt, one of Gil’s closest friends, discussed “growing up as poets” with Gil & announced that he’s part of the team putting together a selected writings, that hopes to include not just the poetry & prose, but correspondence as well. (Anyone with correspondence from Gil should contact Eli at eligold @ temple dot edu.)

Alicia Askenase, Joshua Schuster, Frank Sherlock

Alicia Askenase & Josh Schuster read poems dedicated to Gil, then read a joint excerpt from Traffic. Frank Sherlock, looking thinner from his own recent flirtations with the immortal, read from Maize. Conrad then read a paragraph from the introduction to Harryette Mullen’s new collection Recyclopedia that discusses Gil, his importance & his process. Conrad remembered the days when the whole central city of Philadelphia was awash in artists because some landlords deliberately kept their rents affordable. The tree outside – there are relatively few of these downtown – brushed against the window with approval. Conrad read from The Amputated Toe.

Jenn McCreary, Chris McCreary, Linh Dinh

Jenn McCreary read from The Yellow Floor, while I and Chris McCreary read from The Whole Note, the work of Gil’s I wrote about last Monday. Then Linh Dinh discussed Gil’s fiction & how it impacted & influenced his own, reading from Gil’s emails (and I believe one of his own) from correspondence that took place when Linh was back in Vietnam. He read two passages from Pact. You can tell how the Nor’easter was doing by the fact that it’s dark out the window behind the readers already, and it’s not even six o’clock.

Ryan Eckes, Bob Perelman

Ryan Eckes gave an example of Gil’s mentoring style, describing how Gil prodded him with the question of how was he going to get away from a normative, comfortable upbringing. He then read the short story “Empathy” from Pact. Bob Perelman read his tribute to Gil – it appears in The Form of Our Uncertainty, the festschrift edited by Kristen Gallagher. Perelman then read some work from the latter part of Traffic. Tim Peterson re-arose to read Gil’s poem “Status.”

Kristen Gallagher, Julia Blumenreich

Brooklyn’s own Kristen Gallagher talked about “Gil’s willingness to complain” and that it was integral to his personality & his politics both. She read from his emails concerning politics and then read the poem “Heaven,” a copy of which I just rediscovered in my files of mail from Gil on Tuesday. Julia Blumenreich, Gil’s widow & a terrific poet in her own right (one of the cofounders of 6ix), talked about Gil’s use of systems in his writing and how, since his death, she had been, as she put it, finding Gil in trees. She read from one of the poems she has written out of this process, “Elm Disease,” a poem rich with detail, connecting Dutch Elm Disease & its history in North America with Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy, NFD, one of the extremely unpleasant side effects of kidney disease. The poem was, as has been all of Blumenreich’s poetry that I’ve seen since Gil died, magisterial. The tree brushed against the window with approval.

CAConrad has written a wonderful blog note expanding on his idea, stated midreading, that Gil was as much an anti-mentor as a mentor. Didi Menendez has put a recording of the event up on the MiPoesias site in three files and they can be accessed here, and here, and here.