February 17th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Where am I going to find a poem?

Back when I was throwing parties every six to eight weeks, every other (or at most every third) party was something I called a Reader's Party. The old Brad Davidian Compound (as we called it back then) came wired with a whole-house speaker intercom system with an external audio jack. So I rigged it to take a battery operated wireless lapel microphone, set up the comfy reading chair in the main library, and for the Reader's Parties that space was set aside as relatively quiet space. I then wrote it into the invitations that in order to attend, you had to bring something brief to read aloud.

I did this for a couple of reasons. One of them is that it just seemed like a cool idea to me. Another was that I have many friends who are constantly pushing books or articles or poems at each other, and I figured to set aside a couple of nights a year for them to give out free taste tests, as it were. I'm also especially fond of reading aloud, and of being read to. But the most important covert reason was to raise the bar, a little bit, on who felt welcome at the old Infamous Brad Parties. It was a symbolic sign outside the door that said, "You must be This Smart to ride this ride." I looked around me, saw who my friends were and who their friends are, and predicted with 100% confidence that everybody I cared about would be able to find something, at least a couple of pages, that they'd be willing to read aloud to a forgiving and supportive audience of their friends. A few of them, who were embarrassed by conditions like dyslexia, had to be chivied gently into it, but so far as I know nobody stayed home just because of the reading requirement.

Now the old Brad Davidian Compound is the site of a new Schnucks Supermarket, and a friend of mine from back in the day is hosting the Readers' Parties. And it's presenting me with something of a dilemma. He's set the bar high enough that I can't clear it, not comfortably. You see, his last several Readers' Parties, all of the ones I remember, have been poetry themed. And I have very little use for poetry. I'm just plain colorblind in that area. Most poetry is in a dialect that speaks to me not at all; if it isn't as blunt and concrete as Kipling, then it's in language that I can barely decode, slowly, if at all, if I feel any inclination to bother which I seldom do. I think that what's going on is that as a very literary person, someone who's written thesis-level papers on canonical poets, he looks around him at a social crowd full of reasonanbly smart people and assumes that we're all just as poetical as he is. Maybe many of 'em are. I'm not.

It doesn't help that the announcement of the theme for this party just got to me yesterday. So I've got about 36 hours left to find two minutes' worth of poetry about sex, drugs, and/or rock and roll, and I'm at a total loss as to what I'm going to do.