ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Zack Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   David McIntire
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   April Salzano
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   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
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   Rati Saxena
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   Ken Scott
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   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
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   Dahn Shaulis
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   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
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   Lee Sloca
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   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
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   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
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   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
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   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
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   Jessica Wilson
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   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
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   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
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   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Gene Justice
November 2005
   

 

Rules of Engagement: What the Chinese Shuffle Teaches us about Poetry

Im getting too old for this shit.


Its the last Sunday of the month, Im in Munich, and Thats right, ladies and gentlemen, its time for another session of Absolute Beginners, a local variety show based on the poetry slam/Gong show format that some close friends and I have cobbled together for the local ex-pat community. Weve just breeched the two year mark, and word is finally starting to get out about what happensor, rather, what can happenon our stage. Here, anything short of a Jim Morrison impression circa Miami, 1969is allowed to flaunt itself on the stage, and often does. Magic, music, comedy, poetry, martial arts demonstrations, its all game. It has to be, because the community were reaching out to is limited to the English speaking community.


Its not a poetry show, but, with no apologies to Mr. (Harold) Bloom, poetry has been known to grace our stage. Sometimes weve had to hog-tie it to get it up there, but as the muse is not exactly the most demure among possible loves, it only seems fair to give as good as we get. And tonights show looks to be one of those nights when the only thing thats likely to do the trick is to bring out the whips and chains and go at it. We seem to be just a little more interested in spontaneous overflow than we do tranquil recollection.


Thats to the detriment of our current act, one John, who has made the unfortunate decision to brave our stage and trot out the same material hes been hashing through for the last three shows running. Half the audience has already heard these jokes, and the other half is too keyed up to much listen. Throw in a vocal minority that is not only heckling the performers, but is quite willing to storm the stage and put on their own show, and youve got a recipe for disaster. These latter, a knot of five people who have positioned themselves in the middle of the crowd, directly across a narrow passage that serves as the sole point of egress for the better percentage of the audience, is comprised of a very loud German couple, one of which is given to laughing, loudly, at inappropriate moments, a very tall black man who has just been informed that the show is running late, thus he will not be given a slot, and two Ukranian girls who appear to be interested in starting their own show offstageone that looks to borrow heavily from the poetic school of Beate Uhse, Germanys most successful chain of erotica shops.


John is bombing. Badly. Im host, and wondering if I shouldnt step in and give him the heave-ho, but instead I hover, joining in the general discomfort the more attentive members of the audience are feeling for him. From far in the back of the audience, behind the international anarchist contingent, a British man very politely invites the Ukranian girls to keep their clothes on and quote Shut the fuck up. Im in full repression mode, my hands gripping the barstool Im sitting on much as a drowning man might grasp a piece of driftwood, every thought focused on resisting a deep urge to commandeer the microphone long enough to tell the rowdies to leave the establishment. And I have to admit that my motives for not so doing extend far beyond any principled stance regarding freedom of expression for allafter all, freedoms a tricky word, and in terms of the present discourse, the antics of our resident anarchists are not exactly conducive to the free expression of less manic viewpoints, so it could be well argued that theyre the ones stifling expression. No, my real motives have to do with John. I want to learn from him. I want to see, first hand, how a performer fails to handle an audience.


And I am. Im learning it so well its becoming painful.


Johns gig is stand-up comedy, a medium in which, unlike poetry, the ability to handle hecklers is not only pre-requisite, but often comprises the better portion of the individual performers repertoire. As is well known to both John and myself, one of the audience members tonight is a slight German woman named Dagmar, a long-time supporter of our efforts and a talent scout for a local English comedy club. Dagmar regularly points local comedians our direction, a mutually beneficial arrangement in which our show gains good acts and Dagmar is provided with a venue in which to watch comedians audition. In return, I regularly attend her shows, where I act as ticket seller and help to promote the following months show in exchange for free entrance. Over the last year, I have watched a wide variety of British acts on her stage, some of which were solidly centered around audience feedback. I think particularly of Mike Gunn, who played Dagmars venue the previous November, and based very nearly his entire show on handling the hecklers. Bollocks. He says its bollocks. Of course its bollocks. Some of these are even jokes. You must be great fun to see a movie with: Thats bollocks. Theres no way the Millenium Falcon made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs. John knows that handling hecklers is part of the gig. He also knows hes blowing it, and knowing that isnt helping him. Hes freezing.


John is currently trying to set up the local segment of his routine, a self-depreciating riff in which he comments on his paternal line, which is German, and ties that into the Nazi legacy. Hes just managed to get around to the Nazis when he stops cold, his gaze fixed solidly on the knot of anarchists at the center of the audience. I follow his gaze, and find that the less vocal half of the German couple, a 40-something man with a head shorn entirely of hair, has raised the Nazi salute. In Munich, this is not only impolitic, its illegal. The black man reacts instantly, the anarchists suddenly turning upon themselves, jumping up from his barstool and forcefully slapping the mans hand from the air. For a moment, it looks as if theres going to be a fight, but the two just end up glowering at each other for a good half-minute while John says, Oh yes, the salute. Very nice. Gene, I think Ill cut my losses now, if you dont mind. Thank you all, youve been a lovely audience. He replaces the microphone, clearly shaken, and hastily retreats from the stage.


I have to admit to a deep sense of relief at seeing him exit, even in so ungraceful a fashion. That sense of relief is only intensified by the fact that our anchoring act, a Turkish magician with the stage name of Memo, is a solid veteran and consistent favorite on our stage. For the remainder of the show, the anarchists, having tripped badly over a set of social boundaries theyd steadfastly refused to acknowledge until that moment, remain relatively quiet, and Memo performs in his always competent way. Memo, though a magician, has taught me more about poetry than he probably knows. He has taught me, primarily, about the performers need for an audience, regardless of medium.


I knew about audience coming into this gig, understood that defining ones audience is one of the most crucial moments in any poets development, but I dont think I really understood how that audience shapes the poets work. I also know that there are those poets who would disagree with my take on the matter, poets who argue that the audience isand should beirrelevant to their work. While I can respect that stance, on an individual level, I have, in my own engagement of the art, encountered a number of difficulties in taking that approach to heart. There is, primarily, my own sense of poetry as being a form of dialogue, and while that dialogue may take the form of a dialogue with the self in the initial stages, there comes a point at which the wider community should be engaged. That point occurs long before one reads ones poems before a live audience. It even occurs before we set pen to paper. It occurs as soon as one shapes ones interior dialogue in the form of language, for to engage language is to engage the community of humans. Language is a shared medium, one that we can manipulate to fit the individual vision, certainly, but only within certain boundaries. In our own thoughts, we can use the word duck every time we mean the word table, but to extend that particular vision, we have to engage other humans long enough to persuade them that they should see a table when we say the word duck. And it goes deeper than that, because both words are nouns, so even were one to make the substitution without offering explanation of same, we could still make grammatical sense of the results. Replace table with of or do or the, and the resulting cultural artifact will very likely present further roadblocks to understanding. Of course, poetry is all about stretching those boundaries, and a competent hand at the pen might well make something memorable of such substitutions, maybe even one that speaks to the wider community, but even in stretching the boundaries, we engage the rules of language. And those rules, whether they be entirely separate from social convention or determined by social convention, still remain something independent of the individual poet. We can shape them through our work, maybe even fundamentally alter them, but to do so, we first have to engage them.


The individual poet canand shoulddecide, early on, to whom they are speaking. And while Id make the argument that there is much more of real valuein terms of both the individuals development and the interests of poetry as a disciplineto be gained in moving ones focus outside of ones own skull or garret or coterie of poetically minded friends, I can understand why some might see any such attempt to engage a wider, potentially less informed audience as being somewhat vulgar. It strikes me as a bit snobbish, but there are plenty of snobs to be found among the extroverts, as well, so Im not likely to dismiss a poets work just because it doesnt play well on a stage in front of a crowd of beered-up philistines. Theres plenty of bad poetry on both sides of this divide, and its a given that youll have to reador listen toyour fair share of swill to get to whats good. For my money, though, theres a lot to be learned from other creative disciplines, some of which must engage an audience to reach full development. Johns attempt at comedy, and Michael Gunns success at same, is a case in point. The art form measures the success of ones work in terms of an immediately accessible, physiological response: laughter. It has to communicate. And, all grandstanding about our elitist art, as Mr. Bloom would have our poetry be, aside, theres real pleasure, and real worth, in poetry that communicates beyond the university classroom. But the worth of audience runs deeper than simply speaking to a wider community: it is an aid to the individual poets development.


Consider, for just a moment, Memos work, which consists, primarily, of sleight of hand, but which has, as a necessary component, the art of narrative. My favorite moments invariably occur after the show, when my general state of mind is one of assessment, measuring the merits and demerits of a particular show, but doing so in a very social atmospherepressing the flesh, so to speak, thanking the audience, the judges, and the performers, individually, when possible, for their contribution to the whole. Of the many people I might choose to socialize with in this atmosphere, Memo is by far my preferred company, because he genuinely enjoys his work, and is unafraid to share some trade secrets with me. A passing theoretical knowledge of the tricks themselves certainly provides lubrication for these conversations, as Im usually perched somewhere in between the audience and the magicianI cant do the tricks, having failed to develop the necessary physical skills, but I can usually spot the mechanism by which they are performed. For Memo, this is valuable because I can offer an honest assessment of how well the mechanism was disguised. In return, Memo adds to my theoretical knowledge by illustrating the manner in which the tricks are performed. On more than one occasion, he has shown me a trick that relied not on sleight of hand, but solely on narrativetricks that would be unimpressive if not accompanied with a story that builds them up far beyond anything theyd merit if the mechanism were exposed. There is, for example, the Chinese shuffle, which Memo builds up by performing a series of shuffles, most of which are straightforward. To forestall any politically correct objections regarding the name of the Chinese shuffle, he throws the audience a self-depreciatory bone by demonstrating the Turkish shuffle, in which the deck is cut into two, the top cut is placed on the table, then is picked up again, airily describing a circle over the bottom half, finally to be placed back on the bottom half of the deck, leaving the deck obviously unchanged in any way. The Chinese shuffle, on the other hand, is by all appearances a complete disarrangement of the deck as a whole, in which the cards are flipped, in groups of four and five, back to front. In reality, the entire deck has been neatly halved into two segments, one of which faces the bottom of the deck, and the other facing the top of the deck. There is nothing special to performing this trick: it is merely a matter of knowing how the cards will align themselves, and building a narrative that suggests they have aligned themselves in a less orderly fashion.


And building a narrativewell, even should one fancy poetry a particularly honest art, one that eschews the evils of misdirection and illusion, building narratives is something poets can generally relate to.


Theres something else, though, in Memos work, that speaks directly to my own efforts in writing, and it has everything to do with his need for an audience. Memo is among the most regular contributors to the show, and he is genuinely grateful for the chance to work on a stage. And unlike some of the poets who have wandered across our stage, this has almost nothing to do with an exhibitionistic turn of personality. What Memo needs, to develop as a magician, is a live audience upon which to test his tricks. Theres a simple reason for this, and while developing the particular narrative necessary for a magic act does factor into it, its much more mechanical in nature. Put simply, Memo knows how his own tricks work. He can watch for the angles in a mirror at home, but, in a direct reversal of the conundrum one faces when using a mirror to see what one looks like with their eyes closed, Memo will always see the card, because he knows where it is. To test the trick, to smooth out the hitches in his own delivery, he has to engage someone who does not know what the trick is. For that, he has to have an audience that knows less about the discipline than he does. And, although Im sure, were I worthy of notice, I would be roundly criticized by Mr. Bloom for drawing such a vulgar analogy, there are a few vital connections between what Memo does and what poets do. We misdirect. We represent things in a manner other than they are. And above all, we build a narrative. And, if weve done our homework properly, we know our own tricks, and cant quite manage to not see the sleight of hand when our only audience is our own reflection. To get past that, to know that our efforts are effective, its necessary to engage an audience that knows a little less about those tricks than we do. Its not a lowering of the discipline. Its a test of whether the discipline is even relevant to anything outside of our own community.


On that point, tonights show sends a rather mixed message. The presence of a rather irritatingly self-involved group of loudmouths in our midst rather speaks to our basic irrelevance. But in the afterglow of what, as it turns out, ends up being one of the rowdiest shows weve ever produced, I find myself in the entranceway to the bar, trying to encourage John to push further, to push past one horrible night and to get to where hes wanting to go, when one of the audience members interrupts us to shake my hand. Hey, many thanks for putting this together. I really enjoyed it.


Im glad. And thank you for coming out.


Absolutely. Ill be back. You keep doing what youre doing. This is the best form politics can take.


I have to admit, Im not sure whether the man was referring to the content of the show, or the show itself. Id like to think the latter, in which case I could say, Yeah. Yeah it really is. A space in which everyoneeven drunk, hairless, middle-aged German men given to raising the Nazi saluteis given their chance to speak. And, perhaps more importantly, is given an audience who will tell them exactly what they think of what was said.

copyright 2005 Gene Justice