Something seriously magical occurred at 61 Local on Wednesday night. The inaugural reading series for The Atlas Review
, an as-yet unpublished literary journal (it’s expected in February), featured all of the elements a seasoned event could hope for: a packed house; young, strong talent (poet Justin Boening and writer/Brooklyn Magazine
contributor Catherine Lacey); a unique element (exquisite drawings based on the texts accompanied each reader); a dynamic “it” poet (Camille Rankine, in one of her three readings this past week); an engaged audience; and the candid, practiced elocution of star talent (Kathleen Ossip and Eileen Myles). Hosted by the gorgeous and effusive duo of Natalie Eilbert (cofounder/editor of The Atlas Review
) and poet/Atlas Review
reader/event coordinator Monica D’avila McClure, the night retained the comfort of an intimate and naïve DIY affair while tossing talent upon talent into the mix. If all of this sounds a bit gushy, it’s only because it left me giddy to have found a series more informal and encouraging than anything else 2012 has had to offer. Not to mention The Atlas Review
's stellar policy of blind submissions—despite making a few solicitations, all submissions come in sans an attributing author. Plus, the art...
- Justin Boening, Artwork by Roxy Drew
Justin Boening, senior editor of Yes Yes Books, “lives and breathes poetry,” cohost Natalie Ellbert explained. He read a mix of old and new poems, taking no responsibility in the case of any new work being sub-par. (Not that he needed to, with titles like “The Very Very Important Benefactor.”) His work included delicate lines like “Over the bow/my fingers leave small wakes/I leave a mess of things” while describing the practice of Proxy Baptism, or baptism on behalf of the dead. (Google it!)
- Catherine Lacey, Artwork by Jess Mack
“I haven’t read this to people. Or—to anyone but myself,” Catherine warned before launching into her second story of the evening. Described by cohost Monica D’avila McClure as using words that “don’t blink, ever—they’re very direct,” Catherine’s work struck a tone at once intimate and surreal, invoking interpersonal absurdities and body parts galore.
- Camille Rankine, Artwork by Jacquelyn Gleisner
“I’ll read ‘History.' I read it all the time, but it’s one of my favorites, if I do say so myself,” Camille quipped before launching into the most well-trodden work from her chapbook Slow Dance With A Trip Wire
, with its final powerhouse refrain: “Each finger weak with memory:/lost teeth, regret. Our ghosts/walk the shoulders of the road at night./I get the feeling you’ve been lying to me."
- Kathleen Ossip, Artwork by Geddes Levenson
Kathleen Ossip is a delicate and soft-spoken woman—which only made her poetry that much more affecting. “I guess they could be seen as grim since they are about death,” she said, “but I feel like authenticity has a joy in it.” Ossip followed several elegy/acrostics to celebrities like Donna Summer and Amy Winehouse with a long-form poem "Lyric," which contains the following gem: “The salmon died in terror and agony/ I am eating him with vinegar sauce.”
- Eileen Myles, Artwork by Bianca Stone
“I’m so glad I don’t have to be a woman in the world without Eileen Myles,” began Monica D’avila McClure, and I can guarantee no audience member left without sharing the same sentiment, whatever their gender may have been. Myles is of course a strong, brilliant poet in her own right, but it was the stories she shared that truly heightened the evening, beginning with a bit of snark directed toward The New Yorker
, who rejected her Atlas Review
-contribution “Wet Paris” with a passive aggressive note: “In the future, will you please send your poems to my assistant?” McClure offered to text New Yorker
Poetry Editor Paul Muldoon, to which a crowd-member replied, “Why don’t you give us all his number?” It was an audience clearly on Myles’s side. She also prefaced the excellent poem “Painting of a Penis” with an anecdote about how, when asked what Myles was like as a child, her mother replied, “She always talked about wanting a penis.” As a poet-punk icon, there is more where that came from: “I’m usually against explaining poems, but there are so many good stories—this is like stand-up for a poet."