Lawler’s reading in upstate N.Y.
This past summer I saw poet Patrick Lawler reading
near his home turf, upstate NY, and it was totally
trip of 234 miles one-way up. (It took 4.5 hours to drive
from the Philly suburbs up through the mountains of PA
and NY into the finger lakes region near Syracuse—gorgeous
dense greenery in great depth, mosses, lush grass, shrubbery,
giant trees covering the steep hills and moisture off
the expansive lake where people swam.)
met Patrick at 5 p.m. for an early dinner in Cazenovia’s
coffeehouse, which was several times larger than most fast
food restaurants. The reading was in the front room—exposed
beams, old fat couches, walls of high windows, a dozen
cafe tables, and a couple college kids around a guitar.
The “dining room” was twice as big and had
doors that separated it from the reading/performance space.
Patrick and I tried (in vain) to set up a very expensive
Sony handycam on a tripod to record the reading, but the
tech guy from the college had given Patrick no memory card!
(the idea had been to record the reading for our Many Mountains
Moving Press site.)
was in very high spirits especially when a few of his
friends stumbled in on their way to go swimming,
happily unaware of the reading at 7 p.m. He had them falling
out laughing in no time. One of them bought the new book,
too, and then they were off for the lake under the glaring
evening sun. Then more of Patrick’s friends came
and some of his students. By the time we started there
were a good two dozen people— twenty 20 minutes later
there were more than thirty, which is pretty F$#^%^$ great
for a gorgeous summer evening in upstate NY with school
out and people on vacation and/or in vacation mode.
emcee was very generous to Many Mountains Moving; she
said it is one of the few magazines that tells a poet
that she has really made it. She also told the audience
who I was and that I’d come from Philly just for
the event. She also made a nice pitch for Patrick’s
Patrick’s reading was instantly engaging and comic.
He read several of the same poems that were in the April
reading (the audio is at the MMM Press site). Then he worked
up to the more serious and provocative poems. There was
one in particular that spliced descriptions of Marlon Perkins
from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and the Miss
America pageant and a couple other motifs. It was funny,
vertiginous, satirical and personal, all at once.
(Later he told me that someone had translated the poem
into Russian, so it existed in an anthology in Russian,
which he was unable to read.)
was my first time seeing Patrick read in real life, so
it was very enlightening and stirring. I think the audience
applauded sincerely for every poem. There was also some
hysterical laughter in the audience, especially concerning
an autobiographical poem dedicated “to Mary,” in
which this Mary character had Patrick hold up a very large
boa constrictor that took a great interest in his nose.
In the poem, Mary got mad at Patrick for being scared of
the boa’s mouth when it had only bitten one person
in the nose before, and that was a fluke, after all.
Mary, who was the hysterical laugher in the audience,
told me later that she was “disappointed” that
Patrick was scared of this boa etc.)
The reading was a great success, with a good number of
if we can only get the rest of the world to know about
It seemed a bit crazy (even for me) to drive that far
for a poetry reading, but it was worth it! And it was good
that many of the people picked up MMM flyers for our contests
and our subscription form etc. There were also a few dozen
new site hits to the MMM Press page the day after the reading.
So we did well all around, I think.
next day I was up at 5:30 and on the road to Long Island
(nearly 300 miles), visiting relatives in “the
§ § § § § § § § § § §
think that I met Patrick
until AWP 2005,
Vancouver, and MMM was
working on this
time, and the
process had been
longer than anyone
had imagined. Nonetheless,
was more than
was extraordinarily open-minded
willing to talk
about the ultimate
of the book.
original," and I
the last time I'd read a book with that kind of scope,
was, swear to God, A Coney Island of the Mind.
Patrick turned out to be great to work with, and for
was very grateful. Better yet,
he introduced us to some other wonderful
writers, Linda Pennisi and George Kalamaras,
to be a great reader of his
entertaining presenter of his thoughts
on, for example, Surrealism. He
was even a
sort of a cause
AWP 2006 in
he talked about
have also seen
a DVD of his
April 27, 2006
and it was
was a blast
to have him and his book there on the table
at the AWP
Bookfair in Austin for Many
a while to work out all the design elements of the book,
are all very proud of it. Getting to know
Patrick's work and Patrick himself have been
very inspiring gifts.
Ethan Lee, for MMM, 06/07/2006