WordXWord was a week-long festival of spoken word, poetry & storytelling in Pittsfield, MA. The folks organizing it reached out to AlbanyPoets for folks to come over & read & Kevin Peterson & I stepped up to the plate. This night was, as the publicity said, was “A multi-step, poetry-filled good time ‘crawl’ through the Upstreet Cultural District.”

James Burden at Dotties

We gathered first at yBar on North Street for our “assignments” then on to the first location.   Dotties is a small coffee bar on a corner, with plenty of light & mirrors & it was packed. The first of the night’s celebrity poetry hosts, Jon Sands served as MC & read a funny childhood narrative. James Burden read a just written Haiku & a “To the Cook” written for this event (he’s a cook here in town). Albany’s Kevin Peterson followed with fresh ink about a bat in his room, then a salacious, hilarious piece on the logistics of a 3-way. Then folks, poets & poetry-followers & curious citizens walked back along North Street to yBar.

Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz was the celebrity poet host at the yBar, with its windows emblazoned with poems. I was first up & following Kevin’s lead went for the outrageous, reading “The Pussy Pantoum” & the short “Patriotism.” Emily Palfer-Terino had a cluster of poems about friends, including “The Best Ideas” about an apartment she shared with her boyfriend right here on North Street.

From there we were led around the corner to Mary’s Carrot Cake, where host Adam Falkner sang & read a poem about a memory of girls in his school. Then he introduced Bruce Garlow who read a series of rhyming poems ranging from political criticism to a story of being a bouncer at a bar. Seth Brown‘s poems were more in the performance mode, on a great poem turning bad in the AM, on Zombies & the school memoir “Biblio-Sexual.”

Back across North Street we gathered under the old movie marquee of what is now a Senior Center. I don’t know what it is about Pittsfield, good or bad, but I think I saw tonight more motorized wheelchairs up & down the street than anywhere else in America. Is this the image of the future, we poets going from coffee shop to open mic to bar to bed in our little individual motorized chairs? MC Omar Holman began with a performance piece about the Academy Awards. James‘ poem “Job Requirement” was an urban piece about being a DJ at a club. Kori Alston did a couple of formalized Slam pieces, urban, improvisatory, angry.

Samantha Thornhill & her Cupcakes

We continued up North Street & stopped briefly at Palace Park for Samantha Thornhill to give an inspired performance of “Ode to Twins” her tits, or cupcakes from Mary’s Carrot Cake shop, either way it was tasty.

The final stop was at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, amidst an exhibit of contemporary Islamic art. Chicago poet Robbie Q Telfer served as host & led off with “The Nintendo Christmas,” a Jean Shepard inspired childhood memory more stand-up comic storytelling than poetry, but a long on the rambling side. Eliza Ryan read an essay about longing for the names her ex- once called her. Melissa Quirk read 2 political pieces about the Barack Obama inaugurations, watching the first on TV with middle school students, the poem titled “True Patriotism,” then the second piece questioning her earlier feelings, her poem. Curtis Asch finished off the night with “a poem for Pittsfield” ostenibley a tribute but what amounted to more a stand-up comic schtick.

All-in-all a night of fun on the streets of Pittsfield, but more performance than poetry, more pop-culture pandering than expressive art, with a few stellar exceptions of course. But then what is poetry on the streets all about?  Poetry for people who don’t like poetry, kind of like those sweet drinks in bars for people who want to drink but don’t like the taste of booze. The night was a great success because of it, & I did have fun.  Me? I drink because I like the taste of Bourbon & Gin.

(More pictures at my Flickr! site)