Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kiss the Sky Reading: A Slight Return

The reading last night for the anthology Kiss the Sky was one helluva good time. Miss L and I walked into the Writers Center to Jimi Hendrix Experience playing on the stereo and the smell of incense burning. A table was set with postcards and images of Hendrix, along with a plate full of sugar cubes dyed with food coloring,making them look like something Hendrix might have dosed on back in the day. It all helped set the mood for what was a pretty fun night. Special thanks to Miss L for taking all the photos in this post.


Peabody Giving Background on the anthology Kiss the Sky

Editor Richard Peabody started off the evening by dropping a little Hendrix knowledge and giving some history on the anthology. It was a labor of love, a project that started roughly seven years ago to create an anthology based around Hendrix as a theme. He shopped it around through several publishers, and while several like the concept they always wanted to make changes. Odd changes. Changes like replacing all the works by African American poets with essays by white rock and roll critics (Lester Bangs is in the book, but he gets a pass because he kicked ass when he wrote about music). But Peabody stuck to his vision and, using his own Peacock Press, put out the book himself (for more details on the book itself, go here).


Ruben Jackson reading his poem Hendrix at 49

The wide variety of works we heard that night was really impressive. Ruben Jackson started things off with a poem that answers the question "What if Jimi lived to 49?" There were drug-hazed remembrances from people like Kevin Downs. Matt Kirkpatrick's story tells the fictional history of Hendrix's first guitar as it passed from owner to owner via a variety of pawnshops. Steve Messner's tale of the reincarnation of Hendrix, an odd man who creates music not with guitars but vacuum cleaners, was probably the funniest piece of the night.


Author Steve Messner introducing his story "The Jimi Hendrix of Vacuum Cleaners"

But really the standout piece of the night was a personal essay by Meredith Pond entitled "Proud Hail". Pond attended, not the one with the Chili Peppers or the one with Green Day, but that first one everyone else wishes they attended. Written in a beautiful, poetic prose, she tells what it was like to see Hendrix take control of the stage and perform his (in)famous rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". The whole book is worth it just for her piece alone.


Meredith Pond reading her piece "Proud Hail"

My own reading went ok. I kept it short and focused on the one section of my story that I really like. I gave a little intro and launched into things; everything was going pretty well until about 2/3 of the way into my reading. A lady sitting in the front row hand a handbag that started chiming. Or, rather, she had a cell phone in a handbag that started chiming. I tried my best to ignore it, but it was like a scab that just had to be picked. The more I tried to ignore it the louder it seemed to become. I started stumbling over my words, and, of course, felt like the phone was getting even louder. I felt bad that I was flubbing my reading a little and I felt bad for the woman, who seemed really embarrassed.

After the fourth ring she finally managed to lay her hands on her phone and hit the ignore button.

"About time," I thought. "Now I can forge ahead."

But two more lines into my piece and the damn thing rang again. I guess whoever was calling really wanted to get ahold of this woman. The poor lady finally gave in, stood up and took the call in the next room. By that point, though, my reading was just about over.

The reading was followed up by some socializing augmented with chocolate, wine and coffee. Peabody also arranged a raffle of some choice Jimi artifacts: a few posters, a t-shirt, and copy of the Hendrix Box set. The t-shirt, which seemed to be made for a ten year old girl, was won by Steve Messner, one of the bigger guys in the room. Hopefully he knows a kid to pass it on to.

I chatted with Steve a good bit. We had some classes together in the Hopkins program, and it was nice to see him again. We commiserated a bit about writing fiction that's slightly offbeat, and how we're handling or not handling it. He mentioned moving into Noir a bit more, which actually sounds kind of fun.

On my way out, I picked up a couple of mags to buy from the Writers Center store. I ran into Matt Kirkpatrick in the line to pay. We chatted a little, and then he just looked at me a second and said, "Do you have a blog?"

I nodded.

"You're Hebdomeros, aren't you?" he said.

I admitted I was. He said he saw my post that I was reading that night, and that he wanted to figure out who I was. He then asked if I knew a particular author of local prominence. I've never had the pleasure of meeting this person, but I know her work a little bit. Apparently, some time ago she asked Matt he knew who I was. Never knew I was such a man of mystery.


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