Saturday, October 29, 2011

Painting Enrico Caruso on records with the dead Hunter Brumfield

I curate an annual Art Invitational for the arts organization I co-founded, Poetry Scores. As a habitual sketch artist and doodler, I sometimes sneak one of my drawings into the show.

Since our Invitationals call for work inspired by the poem we are scoring and titled with a quote from it, I tend to sketch someone named in the poem: Che Guevarra (K. Curtis Lyle's Nailed Seraphim), Dante (Les Murray's Sydney Highrise Variations) McKinley's assassin Leo Czolgosz (David Clewell's Jack Ruby's America).

This year we commissioned Barbara Harbach to score Paul Muldoon's Incantata, which is really a name-dropper of a poem. From a vast array of name-checked options -- everyone from Airey Neave to Andre Derain, from Samuel Beckett to Van Morrison -- I have settled on Enrico Caruso.

Caruso is especially tempting, because he was a sketch artist himself and once took offense that the author Samuel Clemens hosted a party for cartoonists that did not include Caruso. My first attempt at a sketch of Caruso, in fact, was a sketch of Caruso sketching a caricature.

Poetry Scores now has a prop shop -- just a humble South City garage, but for whatever reason it whispers potential to the sorts of oddballs who do the work we do. It's prompted us to initiate a Writer In Residence program and makes me feel like we also have an artist's studio at our disposal.

It greatly helps in this regard that my buddy (and new Po Sco board member) Amy Broadway donated a jar of paint amongst her prop-shop-warming gifts. As I started to muse about painting Caruso, I thought it would be cool to paint him on a vinyl record, since he was one of the first international stars of recorded music released on records.

I posted on social media that I was looking for old records I could paint on, and my friend Tony Renner, a veteran Poetry Scores contributing artist, said he would put some aside for me at Vintage Vinyl, where he works.

I stopped by the record store other day. Tony put two boxes of vinyl records on the counter. I picked up one box. He said, "When you come back for the other box, I have something to show you about painting on records." I lugged one box to my car, then came back for the other. Tony was holding up a record with a portrait painted on it.

 "Did you do that?" I asked.

"No," Tony said. "Hunter Brumfield did."

I turned around and walked out of the store onto Delmar without thinking about it -- if this were a novel and not a report of fact, I would have kept walking down the street into a tavern and drank alone for half the day. But in fact, I went back into the store to get my other box of records to paint on.

Tony was smiling. I am pretty sure he knows the deal.

Hunter killed himself when we were in a band together; killed himself on the day he was supposed to help me move into my new house. His drumkit is still in the basement of my house. He has haunted me there several times. He has haunted a number of other people, often in similar ways -- in sudden, inexplicable infestations of insects with associated weird artistic shit going on.

As I picked up my other box of records, cursing about being haunted by the little prick again, I was just a week past a previous lightweight haunting by Hunter, during a visit to an art show at The Sheldon Art Galleries with Amy Broadway. Come to think of it, this was not long after I returned Hunter's painting of Mississippi blues legend Charlie Patton to its rightful owner. As always, Hunter was painting his way back into the picture.

I packed my records to paint on and drove north on Hanley to a North County church, where our conductor Jim Richards was directing the eight-piece chamber ensemble that will premiere Barbara Harbach's poetry score to Paul Muldoon's Incantata on Sunday at UMSL.

A weirdly out-of-season wasp, big as a hockey puck, got into the sanctuary, somehow, and flew around the musicians throughout the rehearsal, as if enjoying the music. It was such a nuisance that the conductor, at one point, actually conducted the wasp by shooing it away, turning the ensemble into a nine-piece. According to a certain demented way of thinking, Hunter had joined the chamber ensemble.

So, now I paint Enrico Caruso's face on vinyl records, and I keep something of Hunter's spirit alive, like "some kind of ghost," as Muldoon writes in Incantata, "who might still roam the earth in search of an earthly delight".

Friday, October 21, 2011

Three poems too big to fail for Occupy St Louis

Occupy St. Louis' leaderless poetry organizers Kristin Sharp and Susan Spit-Fire Lively tell me they need poets to perform at Occupy St. Louis tonight and Sunday from 3 to 5pm. Don't be shy, just go down to Kiener Plaza and do it.

A third-grader has my dance card on the weekends, so I may not make it. I am posting some poems that Kristin or Spit-Fire can read to the people in the event of a shortage of live poets.

The last time I posted poems for Occupy St. Louis, I poked fun at the leftist critique of Occupy Wall Street as incoherent. As I continue to think about the movement (admittedly, with little participation beyond thinking, writing and editing), I want to emphasize something different now.

The 1% of the wealthiest people with the most invested in the financial sector convinced most of us that their institutions were too big to fail. Fine. Well, I think the Occupy movement is reminding people of something as true or more true: that the 99% also is too big to fail. To put it less tendentiously, the middle class is too big to fail. If the banks are worth saving, moreso the people and our future.



There was a lot of concern
in Coffeyville. The hospital got destroyed.
Took them awhile to get death
out of the basement. It gets hard to measure
your performance when the best
outcome is nothing unusual happens.
If I was in the business

of counting dry goods shipped by truck, it would be
quite simpler. Say, disposal
of carcasses of cattle killed by the storm.
Or, how to bury bodies
in the middle of the night. Or, burn pits, which
I’ll get to, in a minute.
As we burn and bury, people are getting
married, still, toasting fluted
glasses circling necks of ice flamingoes. Mass
fatality planning must
go on. Worst case corpse scenario? Ice rink.

-- Chris King



Singing quiets the cattle.
Dog eat dog, dog shit dog out. I did cut it
off. Not too good a feeling
and I had to walk away. It was a flop
of a Gold Rush. Chinaman
got out of Dodge. Let the cattle rustle for
the cattle and old Tom Gin.

Now you might be bread in old Kentucky but
you’re just a crumb around here.
People said iron from the rails would bring rain.
I didn’t buy it. Even
gold was just a flash in the pan, duck feathers
for soldiers’ beds. He gave up
a few old knives, kept back pails of kitchen fat
for soap and bombs, if need be.
Some uranium craze in Pumpkin Butte.

-- Chris King



Greed above, dreams from below,
the first known photo of the moon, earth quakes, buds
fall from trees, bums directing
traffic, all this activity, hives, stars and
ladders, a room of Spaniards
and a guitar with a broken G string. She
gets upset, cassettes topple

and apples, Furry Lewis, leave your muddy
shoes by the back door. Shadow
puppets stuffed under her bed. MY HAIR FEELS LIKE
A FUCKING WIG! A friend of
fond jugglers, a faithful wife of poverty.
Maybe what we need right now
lead sleepy lives for awhile. These here pieces
I accumulated in
the cremation grounds, you can have your own if
you sleep in the cremation
grounds. When all the trees are gone and the birds stand

on the sturdy heads of men,
they celebrated their unwillingness to
sing in a forgotten tongue.

-- Chris King


These poems are cast in the 7/11 poetic form innovated by the poet Quincy Troupe. The form calls for alternating lines of 7 and 11 syllables, starting with 7. I have added the rule of alternating stanzas of 7 and 11 lines, starting with 7, or at least limiting stanza lengths to 7 and 11 lines (though I cheat as needed).


Image from Boilr.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Four birds killed & a dead friend revived

Working in the media, you get buried in information. On the arts tip, this is good because you see how much is actually going on, and in St. Louis, that's way more than most people imagine. It is bad because you see how much you are missing, which is way more than I can stomach.

As a committed parent of a third grader with very few nights to myself, I stake out things that happen during the day, so I was delighted to get a press release at work announcing a gallery lecture for noon today by Daniel McGrath, curator of a show at one of the Sheldon Art Galleries titled I'll Be Your Mirror.

By attending, I was killing two birds, the getting out to actually see local arts programming and building on a new connection. Daniel and I were in the group of sculptors and poets invited to collaborate recently on the Poetry in Place: The Platforms events at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and met a number of smart, talented new people I promised myself to keep track of.

I killed a third bird as well. One of my best friends these days works next door to the Sheldon at The Pulitzer. Amy agreed to spend her lunch with me listening to Daniel spiel, so it was off to the lecture with my buddy.

We got there early enough to look at the show first, which was cool. I appreciated the mix of local, national and international artists, treated (I hope obviously) as equals; can't get too much of that in this town. I also gather that some of these artists from elsewhere are sort of "it" artists in the art world now, something of a coup for Daniel and the gallery, and I understand the value and appeal of that sort of thing without being compelled by it personally.

Daniel wrote a really eloquent essay that tied the show together and made connections that it would not be possible to make just looking at the work, which seems just the right way to go with a curator's essay. Reading his notes definitely enriched my experience of the show, though I also had a positive sensual experience of many of the works without having the contextual overlay. A painting of a mouse looking down into a mirror really did it for me, as did a video by Slater Bradley of a man in a moon suit playing a music box to stuffed animals in their diorama habitats.

Not surprisingly, given the premise of the show, I spent the most time looking at the piece that most closely resembles the kinds of things I try to do. Local artist Robert Goetz took a series of photographs of traffic passing (or not) the same four roadside smokestacks. He then did prints to accompany each photograph where the bands of color in the print related to how the smokestacks were intersected in the photograph. Photograph and print were then conjoined. As a final touch, he scored his own images musically, though the music pod for his piece wasn't working when I was there, so I didn't get the entire effect. Robert and I used to do similar work together in Poetry Scores, and though we have lost touch it was a pleasure to see he has continued in the project of scoring texts and translating between media.

Amy and I went to the Tap Room to talk about the show, which made for some interesting, mirroring connections. I tried to explain my prior working relationship with Robert, making the connection that he and I had played in a band together with Hunter Brumfield. Amy and I also had Hunter in common as a friend, until Hunter killed himself. When I made the connection, Amy blurted, "Hunter and I sang 'I'll Be Your Mirror' together!"

The coincidence with the Velvet Underground song that themed the show we had just seen was interesting. So was this. One of the pieces in the show was a sculpture by Hannah Greely made to resemble a bottle of beer crusted in dirt. I thought of Hunter when I looked at this piece, because I have the last bottle of beer he drank before he killed himself, given to me by his girlfriend at the time who knew I'd probably appreciate it.

This left me with the pleasant feeling that a fourth bird had been killed today, that the spirit of our dead friend who died too young had been recycled in our coming together to experience art today. The dead are only as dead as we allow them to be. We can be their mirror.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I love St Louis & baseball but not the Cardinals

Left-handed batting stance on the rock & roll road, ca. 1993.

I love St. Louis to death and love the game of baseball almost as much; yet the St. Louis Cardinals just battled through a Cinderella August worthy of the record books to win the National League penant and advance to the 2011 World Series, and I really don't care. Don't give a hoot. Didn't watch one single out of the National League Championship Series. I'd probably even silently root against the Redbirds in the Series, were it not for the fact that their American League opponent, the Texas Rangers, previously were owned by George W. Bush.

What gives? How the hell could all of these things be true?

Let me start with my baseball bona fides. I may be an oddball by many measures -- I read Turkish poetry for fun and make zombie movies based on Turkish poems -- yet I am a fully acculterated American boy when it comes to baseball. Not only did I memorize the backs of baseball cards, I have held onto my entire childhood baseball collection over an itinerant life that has included periods of being "between homes." Not only did I grow up playing the game, it was the one game I was good at. Most sports, I played precisely well enough to earn a starting position, wear a jersey on game days, attract the girlfriends who could be won in no other way. In baseball, I played third base, picked a mean hot corner, and always batted in the heart of the lineup, a line-drive hitter with longball power. I even played competitive baseball as recently as this century, when I co-founded a vintage baseball team that played barehanded ball by 19th century rules in New York City's Central Park. I played third base and batted in the heart of the lineup.

Baseball; okay. But St. Louis Cardinals baseball, and me?

Sure. I grew up on Jack Buck and Mike Shannon. I knew, like everybody knew, that we were sitting at the heels of genius there. I grew up on Ozzie Smith and Al Hrabosky -- magical, mystical, supernatural ballplayers and characters. Visual evidence exists of this: a photograph of me from a Granite City Halloween party in the early 1980s, when our entire friendship clique came in costume as St. Louis Cardinals players: a portrait of the artist (in my case) as a mediocre second baseman (Tommy Herr).

What happened? A whole lot of things happened.

I'm slightly phobic about filling out forms. I was really good at high school, but not good at all about applying to any colleges. So a guidance counselor sent a U.S. Navy recruiter to me. He filled out all of my forms, and suddenly I was a Navy Midshipman studying biomedical engineering at Boston University with a full-time job as a NROTC Cadet. I was also a fanatic for rock music suddenly thrown into one of the great rock music cities, Boston, with indie rock exploding all around me. I looked at my course schedule, my Navy billets, the gig calendars at Boston rock clubs, and I realized something had to go. My baseball fanatacism had to go, if I was going to make it through this NROTC university thing. And so the boy who used to interview himself as an imaginary famous baseball player while stocking shelves at Cohen's Market went pretty close to cold turkey on Major League Baseball. It amazes me to remember this, but I lived a year in Boston, able to replay in memory any number of Freddy Lynn catches in its center field, in the shadow of the Green Monster, and stepped inside Fenway Park exactly once.

I lived in Boston one year only. Me and the Navy didn't work out. That's another story. I ended up back home, though not in Granite City; now I was in St. Louis proper, at Washington University. There might have been time to take up baseball again, but not in the poring-over-box-scores-every-morning manner I was accustomed to -- especially not with this rock music thing taking me over, more and more completely. In fact, I ended up running away from the academy (where I was doing fine, at least on paper, the only place that really matters in the academy) to play rock music myself.

When I got off the rock & roll road towards the end of the 1990s, there was a window there when the St. Louis Cardinals might have won me back. This was exactly when Cardinal Nation, as Cardinals fans style themselves, lost its damn mind. The owners brought this big ugly redheaded guy with bloated muscles here from Oakland. His specialty was what I emphatically consider to be the single dullest play in the game of baseball, from the standpoint of a spectator: the homerun. It's the only play that ends with the swing of the bat. In every other play, even a foul ball or wild pitch, someone else has a chance of being drawn into the play, to make an even better play or perhaps some catastrophic mistake. In the quintessential team sport, however, the homerun is the most solitary play, the solipsist's play. Yet it ascended to dominate the game. Bloated muscles and a shallow, cowlike response to big stats from fair-weather fans turned the chess of team sports into a meat-musclehead strongman dinging a bell.

Remember: I was a third baseman. I like infield defense, not infielders watching a speeding white blip sail over a distant fence while the constipated strongman touches four.

Then I met a lady on a plane and ended up living with her in New York. I did the thing you have to do when you're living with a lady, I got my own job. I ended up editing the travel section of a magazine. Let's face it, that's not the most demanding job in the world. To a guy who had scraped and hustled for the Navy, studied at world-class research universities, figured out how to run a touring rock band from scratch, and eked out a living writing freelance journalism at a dime a word, it was kind of like being paid to do nothing. But suddenly I had to be at the same place all the time, with the same people (when I wasn't traveling to write a travel story). Like millions of office workers before and after me, I found myself with a little time on my hands to discuss athletic contests. I crept back into baseball.

I was in New York, okay? And the hometown team, the Cardinals, had fallen for the bloated strongman who dings the bell. What was I going to do? Go over to the Yankees? I went over to the Yankees. I got some good haiku out of my first visit to Yankee Stadium. Yeah, Yankee Stadium. I started to feel some of the old magic come back. But we are talking about the Yankees here, or much more disastrously, the Yankees' fans. Though they play their games in the Bronx, this was Manhattan's team, and Manhattan had become the rich man's island. This was the rich fan's team. I went over to the Mets.

I know, the Muts, I know, the Pond Scum. But the Cardinals had fallen for the ugly bloated redheaded strongman who dings the bell. I owed them nothing. The Mets were my hometown team now. I could even walk to the stadium, and I did just that many times. My best friend in New York lived right along the way, Rosco Gordon, the jump blues legend who recorded with Sam Phillips before Sun Studios, when Elvis was still strumming a tennis racket as a guitar and interviewing himself as an imaginary famous musician. I'd walk through Jackson Heights, pick up three snacks from three different ethnic kitchens, pick up the jump bluesman, and we'd watch the Mets at Shea.

Remember, I was a third baseman. The third baseman for the Mets in those days was Robin Ventura. That is, first of all, one of history's great names. Robin Ventura. It's ridiculous. And then I met the man, an incredibly nice man, and all those Mets, by coming up with feature stories for the (now defunct) Connecticut page of The New York Times. Robin Ventura lived in Connecticut, as did Todd Zeile, the kooky Mets manager Bobby Valentine (another immortal baseball name) and a number of other guys on the field and in the front office. My editor at The Times was a Connecticut guy and a baseball nut, always looking for a reason to green-light a Connecticut baseball feature. Connecticut and baseball have been very, very good to me.

My sketch of a cameraman made from the press box at the old Shea Stadium.
This next part is very important. The people who most need to hear it, Cardinals fans, will never hear it. I have tried to tell many Cardinals fans this, and they would not hear it. They never hear it. But it is true. Shea Stadium has the sharpest baseball critics in the world. When I say this to Cardinals fans, they say in a chorus, "No, Cardinals fans are the best fans in baseball!" And then I say, while that may or may not be true, in terms of cow-eyed adoration of the home team, it's not what I said. I said: best baseball critics. In Shea, they love baseball, but love or hate the Mets precisely according to how well or badly they measure up to the great game of baseball. I am not talking about see-sawing manic-depressively from cow-eyed adoration to drunken despondency that my team is out of the Wild Card race. I am talking pitch by pitch, infield adjustment by infield adjustment, pitching change by pitching change criticism of the game as the game is being played.

I moved back home. That's another another story. And I saw St. Louis sports through new eyes. It's really very simple. New York is a two-team town. It's a competitive democracy for sports fandom. Nowhere in New York can you say "the game," as in "can you turn on the game?" as if there is only one game in town. The game. In New York, there is always at least two games in town. Now don't get me wrong, I don't love New York. I vastly prefer St. Louis. But what I like about St. Louis least is what so many people from St. Louis thinks makes them so special: how much they love their sports teams. In fact, this is the most typical, bush league thing about this great city. Ever been to a college town on a game day? That's St. Louis, 162 days of the year, or more, if the Cardinals make it into the post-season. If New York is a competitive sports democracy, St. Louis is a rigid, inflexible, one-party system. It's the Soviet Russia of sports cities.

And lo and behold, these Cardinal fans now have embraced another California import who totally rubs me the wrong way. I never liked the cocky look of this manager. Eventually, he would take his upturned nostrils and self-infatuation to a conservative rally against President Obama organized by a cheap shot of a conservative talk show hack, but long before that he violated my sense of humanity once and for eternity when he threatened a press conference full of reporters with a fungo bat he was holding in his hands. Tough guy. Sorry, Charlie. I was done with you and your team, whichever that team might be and wherever it might be getting its taxpayer subsidies, then and forever.

There is that political point to be considered there, the paying for these owners to make money off us, but I won't whine about the "pay for my new stadium" game, which everybody plays, everywhere. Hey, I'd take some help refinancing my mortgage too, if I could get away with it, but I can't.

But then I also can't fathom how the chump hometown fan is exactly the last person suited up for this game with an iota of geographic loyalty. The owner of the team may not live in the team's town (the Cardinals' owner doesn't). The players play for the highest bidder, wherever that bid may be paid. That's the way the fans want it, presumably, because they holler pretty fast for the owner to let any player go who's fading in exchange for the next better thing. Everybody is always looking for the next team, or the next player. Everybody is in it for the money or the glory, except Joe Chump Hometown Fan. Joe is supposed to root robotically for whoever happens to be playing for whoever happens to be owning the team that happens to be situated in his town -- until, of course, the owner moves his hometown team to another hometown. And then they wait for another owner to move another team to their town so they can love that team and only that team with that same cowlike look in their eyes.

I don't get it. I grew up in the Free Agency Era, which started right here in St. Louis, by the way, in 1969. I was a boy of three probably chasing a baseball across the carpet when Curt Flood said hell no, I don't want to go. I want to stay. And by wanting to stay in St. Louis instead of submitting to a trade to another city's team, ironically, he paved the way for a game of baseball where nobody stays in one place anymore. Except the chump hometown fan, who even when he or she moves, is still supposed to remain nostalgically loyal to the team that happens to be situated in their hometown, until it isn't.

I'm not like that. Take me and the Mets. It's over. They've moved on, and I've moved on. The Mets I cared about are gone from New York. Robin Ventura is now managing up in Chicago (I'll have to find a reason to go and say hello). Todd Zeile is producing movies (I'll have to find a reason to go ask him for money). Bobby Valentine talks about the game on TV and has a city job in his Connecticut hometown. They might be somebody's Mets, but they're not mine anymore.

I now live in a house with two females, and one TV. I think you know what that means. I haven't seen a television in years, at least not the one I co-own. I could listen to baseball on the radio, but I still prefer music, if I have to pick one or the other. In fact, I would say it's time for me finally to retire as a journeyman freelance baseball fan. I quit. I'm out of here. If the game ever decides to remember me for my contributions to the game, not that I expect it will, and I have to pick a jersey to wear when I enter the Cooperstown of freelance baseball fans, it won't be the Cardinals jersey. It won't be the Red Sox jersey. It won't even be my most recently Mets. It will be the Sans Souci Poeteasters, my imaginary dice baseball team composed of nothing but poets. But that's another another another story.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Three incoherent poems to be read at Occupy St. Louis

Kristin Sharp does a lot of good work organizing and promoting performance poetry in St. Louis. I see that she is organizing poets for tomorrow (Sunday, October 16) at Occupy St. Louis in Kiener Plaza. At that time I will be managing an aspiring child actor with a non-profit gig, but I wanted to post a few of my poems and invite Kristin or anyone else to read one of them there.



We came out of the mud, out
of the dark, out of the heat. Here today, I
empower you to screw up
something (I’ll give you the real answer, later).
Take an overweight person
eating chicken-fried steak, smoking cigarettes,
It makes a lot of sense, yeah,

for Alaska. The monkey in the middle.
Fly in low, the ambulance
outside your door (if you even have access
to ambulance services).
That’s a lot of dead people. Money came here.
In Mexico, I’m sure, there are seminars
going on, right now, asking
what happened to all the jobs they "stole" from the
American South. We are
all, always, on deadline, not Acme Widgets.

-- Chris King



The apple is the sweetest,
the closest to the core. The sweetest and most
difficult to eat. Guilt is
a Calvinist virus that makes your cue ball
incident look like punk stuff,
soul insurance, Boddishatva of the porn,
a store called Experience.

The people who bid this shit up never have
put anything on the line
because they don’t even know where the line is.
Throw their money around like
a cudgel. It’s not an indictment, I’m just
talking about what’s really
going on, with my twin pistol butts showing.
It’s just a poisoned Old World
predatorial system. Sneeze! Scat! (Devil!)
Dude, you can’t eat soul, yours or
mine. You’re falling far afield again tonight.

-- Chris King



For arrow poison, we boiled
gall down. The hair was plastered with clay a full
day, to impart gloss and keep it from splitting.
Now, the exterminating
influence of missions was discouraging,
sure, but courage, for us,
was really a curse. A is for Absence,
B is for Bayonet in
the Back of C, or Crazy Horse, D is for
Don’t You Speak Your Mother Tongue,
E is for Entrails Emptying Out Our Soul.

-- Chris King


These poems are cast in the 7/11 form innovated by St. Louis poet Quincy Troupe, which calls for alternating 7-syllable lines with 11-syllable lines. I add to that rule an attempt to alternate 7-line stanzas with 11-line stanzas, or at least to use only 7-line and 11-line stanzas.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which includes Occupy St. Louis (as I understand it), has been criticized from the left for being incoherent. So I have chosen some poems that are indeed somewhat incoherent, yet all say something important (I'd like to think) if you are patient with complexity and polyvalence.

As for Occupy Wall Street, or what I have heard about the movement from the distance of a busy parent and working artist with a demanding day job, it reminds me of what I loved about the intentional community movement when I first encountered it. I really liked the communal approach to resources and the consensual approach to decision-making. It's my impression that these approaches have worked for the human being for many more centuries than the approaches concentrated on Wall Street. It always seems possible that the time will come when they will be widely practiced again, either out of choice or, more likely, grim necessity.


Image borrowed from Peter.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

One more Saturday for "Poetry in Place: The Platforms"

On Saturday I was part of something new, for me certainly, and maybe for anyone anywhere. Dana Turkovic, curator of exhibitions at the mighty Laumeier Sculpture Park, put it together. It was titled Poetry in Place: The Platforms. "The Platforms" were six constructed sites to read poetry (or, for that matter, to spout rants). Five poets were then invited to read poetry on these platforms and encourage others read or speak. I was one of the five invited poets.

I liked the idea very much, once I fully grasped it, which didn't happen until we were actually doing it. I do not fault Dana for this. In fact, I liked very much the way she organized the event. It was all very familiar to me, from my own efforts with Poetry Scores -- coming up with a group project that no one had ever quite thought of before, and then pulling together the group to pull it off knowing full well they can't imagine it in advance because it's a totally new thing.

The good news -- and another clever part of the design -- is we are going to do it again, next Saturday, October 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. I'll do my best to get more people out to Laumeier this time to experience this unique approach to public poetry and sculpture.

Here is how it works. There is a circular trail of platforms crafted around a small section of the vast sculpture park. (Signs point the way.) If you follow the trail, you come upon platforms with poets.

Coming down from the parking lots, you first encounter Douglis Beck's platform. Its main features are a wheel you spin and a cone that acts as a megaphone, like a carnival barker.

Next you see Daniel McGrath's platform, a faux stone, like something an ancient philosopher would stand upon to declaim.

Then you see Sarrita Hunn's platform, a glittery box that also has a multimedia component that was described to me. Since my phone is a dumb phone, I didn't quite get it, but if your phone is smart your phone can play with this platform too.

Then you come upon Noah Kirby's platform, which is more like a rusted old phone booth, since you step into rather than up on it. You can kind of hide in this one, while projecting your voice out of another megaphone-type construction.

From there you take a turn into the woods, where you soon come across the platform designed by Axi: Ome (Sung Ho Kim and Heather Woofter). This one is basically a bridge.

Finally, at the end of the woodlands trail is B.J. Vogt's piece, kind of a simulated forest of white trees with stepping stones.
It's an enormous park, there were six platforms for simultaneous poetry, poetry is a tough draw in any event, and (as I've said) this event was intrinsically difficult to promote in advance. So even with six local artists and five local poets -- I was joined by Julie Dill, Chris Parr, Stefene Russell and Buzz Spector -- the turnout, or walk-by traffic, wasn't quite equal to the ambition of the project or the quality of the work.

Still, it was a magical experience for those of us who did experience it. My favorite moment as a performer was hiding Noah Kirby's rusted metal structure and reading almost my entire chapbook of painful lost love poetry, A heart I carved for a girl I knew. It was the perfect environment for that poetry.

As a listener, my favorite experience was watching Buzz Spector read in B.J. Vogt's faux forest nestled in the actual woods. The poetry Buzz read was full of artifice and contrivance, very self-consciously so, and it was neat to see him read these poems while standing in a little artificial forest.

Now that we have a better sense of what to expect, I think all of the artists and poets involved will be able to bring more people out next Saturday. I certainly hope so. A lot of working artists in St. Louis (me included) tend to grouse that our major arts institutions don't do enough to partner with and co-promote with local working artists. I know we all enjoyed the rush of collaborating with a major international institution like Laumeier, but I feel we owe the institution a better return on its investment in us -- namely, local visitors who would not be at the park that particular day were there not these particular local artists included in the day's exhibitions.

Of course, this being St. Louis, that depends entirely on the St. Louis Cardinals being knocked out of the post-season between now and then.