2016 Readings: A Look Back

 

Cutrer at Mr Hip Presents

Photo: Meghan Hole

Since the release of Lord’s Own Anointed in December of 2015, I’ve had the pleasure to read for some amazing audiences in Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New York. The book officially launched in January of 2016 at St. John’s Coffeehouse in Covington, Louisiana. It felt right to launch the collection there, so close to where the stories and characters of the poems came into being. The event was hosted by Rob Fairburn, whose artwork appears on the book’s cover and throughout its pages. Rob has been killing it lately with new commissions and projects–if you don’t follow him on Instagram already, then you most definitely should. And consider commissioning a piece from him–his rates are reasonable and his work is phenomenal.

In April, I read for one of the last installments of Mr. Hip Presents in Jamaica Plain, Boston. I was excited to read alongside David BlairBobby Crawford, and Sarah Blake . Mr. Hip is legendary in Boston for his monthly showcase of diverse poets and musical guests. Each reading felt like the best kind of talk show, with musical interludes, humor, book giveaways, dancing, and every kind of poetics you can think of, from slam to sonnets, narrative to elliptical, all held together by Mr. Hip’s genius for hosting. It’s too bad that the series has folded, but it was phenomenonal while it lasted. Anyone with the good fortune to attend these readings came away with the feeling that anything, just anything can happen at a poetry reading. I am honored to have been a part of it.

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Bobby Crawford, David Blair, Kevin Cutrer, Sarah Blake, Jordan Carter, Donald Vincent (AKA Mr. Hip). UForge Gallery, Jamaica Plain, April, 2016. Photo: Meghan Hole

I was invited by Dan Wuenschel to read with Simeon Berry and heather hughes at the Cambridge Public Library in August for the series that Dan hosts in the public lecture space there. Like Mr. Hip Presents, this series illustrates that poetry can feel just at home out in the world as it does on the university campus. The public library is a natural venue for a poetry reading, as it’s a community space dedicated to learning and preserving access to the arts of language. I have to say that the crowd for our reading was sizable and enthusiastic, due in large part to the efforts of heather, Simeon, and Dan to drum up interest in the months leading to the big night. We were worried that a number of regulars wouldn’t make it, as many of them would likely still be out of town on summer vacations. But thanks to the dedicated push to get the word out early and often, that night we read to one of the best audiences I’ve ever seen gathered.

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Simeon Berry, heather hughes, Kevin Cutrer. Cambridge Public Library. August, 2016. Photo: Dan Wuenschel.

I try to make it out to New York as often as possible, which sadly amounts to just a few times a year as work obligations and other responsibilities conspire against me. In fact, last year I thought for sure I wouldn’t get to visit at all, as an unplanned event took up the precious few vacation days I had hoped to reserve for a handful of three-day weekends in New York. But when the invitation to read in October for Carmine Street Metrics (one of the best reading series in New York) came from Quincy LehrAnton Yakovlev, and Wendy Sloan, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. So, I packed my suitcase and headed down to read with J.D. Smith, who was promoting his latest collection. This was my second time featuring for Carmine Street, and my first at the legendary Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village.

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Otto’s Shrunken Head. 


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J.D. Smith and Kevin Cutrer. East Village, NYC. October, 2016. Photo: Anton Yakovlev

If a public library seems like a natural fit for a poetry reading, a tiki bar in lower Manhattan may at first glance appear antithetical. But if you’ve read my poems, you should know that they feel as much at home on a bar stool as on a church pew. I applaud the work of poet-promoters like the Carmine crew for their effort to bring poetry to venues–like tiki bars–where it’s routinely ignored. Kudos to Carmine, too, for providing a longstanding venue for formal verse, featuring what has to be the best open mic in the country. Among the poets reading at the open mic in October were Terese Coe, John Foy, and John Marcus Powell. In a space that regularly hosts rock shows, our reading may not have made the walls shake, but we rocked out all the same.

Each of these events was a labor of love, and when I think of all of the unpaid hours in organization and promotion, I am honored that these good people thought my work deserved so much of their time and energy. It’s enough to keep me going for a long time to come.
 

 

Good Grief

An earlier version of this poem was published by First Things. A friend on Facebook mentioned it yesterday, which prompted me to revisit it this morning and change a few things that have always bothered me.

Good Grief

You said it, Charlie Brown.
Though all we get is grief,
they only knock us down
to topple our belief
that one day, maybe soon,
the meek will all inherit
and Lucy change her tune.
I don’t think they could bear it
the way we do: to rise
in failure and begin
where we left off, unwise,
knowing we’ll fall again.
And in our darkest mood
to still allow for Good.

Reading at the Cambridge Public Library 8/31/2016

I will be reading with Simeon Berry and heather hughes at 6:30 PM on August 31 at the Cambridge Public Library (449 Broadway, Cambridge  02138). Click here to see the Facebook event page to let us know you’re coming and to invite all of your friends.

I am incredibly excited to read with these two poets. The event is hosted by Dan Wuenschel, a consummate host. I’ve attended a number of Dan’s poetry events over the past few years (and, I might add, he killed it a few months ago at Mr. Hip Presents); it is an honor to have the opportunity to enjoy some time behind the podium this time around.

I’ll be reading from Lord’s Own Anointed, of course, with copies available for sale. I’ll also read some new work, in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to since the book came out. I hope to see you there!

You’re Doing It Wrong: notes to self on making poems

Here are some commandments I have heard thundering from on high at my writing desk. Don’t take them too seriously, please. Except for #10. I humbly submit that if we all took more pleasure and pride in the success of others than in our own, the poetry world would be a much happier place. (I’m not saying it is easy, mind you. I fear I may never master it.)

 

  1. First thought: worst thought.
  2. Make it you.
  3. Go where your gut keeps telling you not to go. You’ve made it to the abandoned asylum. It’s not enough to throw rocks through the windows. Step inside.
  4. The vast majority of people out there don’t give a shit about poetry. Your poems, however, should care a great deal about those people. Write for those who never intend to read you.
  5. The speaker is never you.
  6. The speaker is always you.
  7. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your pop culture references.
  8. There is more to life than Shakespeare, Greek myth, and other canon fodder– your reader will care more about the life imbued in your poems than the content of your footnotes.
  9. Why should I read your poems rather than, say, binge watch Parks and Recreation on Netflix?
  10. For your soul’s sake, endeavor to celebrate the success of others more than your own.

Lord’s Own Anointed Now Available

My first collection of poetry, Lord’s Own Anointed, is now available at www.dosmadres.com.

lords-own-anointed-cover

 

This collection encompasses over a decade of writing and revising (and rewriting, and revising, and more revising, and…)

Though many of the poems were drafted while I lived in Boston and Brazil, the collection centers on the rural Louisiana of my youth. It features drawings done in pencil and ink by Rob Fairburn, a longtime friend of mine who grew up in my hometown. Rob’s drawings represent a special collaboration that I am particularly proud of–it’s a rare gift for a writer to work with an artist, particularly one who shares an intimate knowledge of the world in the poems.

In time I’ll share news about the book as it becomes available, including upcoming readings in Louisiana, Boston, New York, and elsewhere. Stay tuned!

Harp of Shadows

This week I have been dipping a bit into the creepy stories of H.P. Lovecraft and delighting in the sensation of having the hair on the back of my neck stand up through the sheer electricity of words. I recently read a poem that had the same effect, in the current issue of The Hudson Review. I’m referring to Ernest Hilbert’s masterful “Insomnia Redux,” which aside from being beautifully wrought (the beam of a flashlight passing over a chair casts “a harp of shadows”) is genuinely eerie and unsettling. I’ll let you get to the chilling denouement on your own.