Three poets on a spring evening at Boswell
At the far west end of the bookstore, black metal chairs and cushy couches were soon filled. The program started promptly at 7, with Derrick Harriell reading selections from his book, Cotton, a lyrical chronicle of his family’s migration from Alabama to Milwaukee. I guess because he’s a black American and his roots are in the south, I wonder if he’ll refer to pecan pie. He does, with words so rich they rise off the page to settle near a bottle of Black Label. Aunt Rose, Otis Redding, voodoo in his oatmeal, a yellow brick road made of asphalt, all ring true. Harriell ended his fifteen minutes with a reminder that he’s working on a book about boxing.
Ed Makowski is no longer Eddie Kilowatt, but the lady in charge of the evening introduced him as “always fabulous.” Ed rambles through his poetry, kicking at stuff with his booted toe, and whether he shapes observations about the YMCA or a coin secreted under a tongue or, for that matter, a daily confrontation with an ant, his writing is clear and cynical. He chats about ice melting in the urinal, skiing in a forest, cat’s claws, smoke rising and iron dinosaur skeletons viewed from a train as it winds south through the Allegheny mountains.
Certainly the most over-the-top dramatic reader of the evening was Nick Demske, who chewed up the scenery. His scenarios included a half-full bedpan, a girl he kissed who became a faggot, starfuckers, hot dogs, fireflies and the sky as a fireplace. Then there was rap & death, necro-pastoral and a political reference to “Cairo in Wisconsin,” followed by “Ode to a Ravine”about a fox seen in a Racine … ravine. I found myself more intrigued by his theatrics than his poetry. He is a whiz with sonnets deconstructed, but perhaps less shouting would better serve his efforts.
The program ended promptly at 7:50. A young man seated nearby paused to ask, “Did you enjoy it?” Yes, I did, but more than that, I enjoyed taking notes on those who attended the event. Pierced, dyed, tattooed, booted, skirted or blue-jean babies, they were über-polite. Not one person blabbed on a cell phone or loudly slurped their Starbucks during the event.
Prior to the Boswell poetics, I caught the 5pm showing of a superbly poetic The Illusionist, at the Downer. Too bad the cud-chewing, food-chomping, bag-rattling couple in front of me ruined a perfectly lyrical, hand-drawn, full-length animated movie. I hope Mr. and Mrs. Slob don’t show up at a poetry reading.