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Triptych Reading Series

By Nicolle Elizabeth

If you are in New York City, you must, you absolutely must, attend the Triptych Reading Series. Curated by Iranian-born translator and poet Kaveh Bassiri and poet Mary Austin Speaker, the reading series brings everyone from Mark Strand to Charles Wright (this week), and next month will feature John Ashbery. Located in the cozy and truly beautiful back room of the E. 11th Street Bar. WWB's Bud Parr once taught me, by the way, to always count the number of people in a room when at an event. Standing room included, I found around 60 in the audience. The readings are warm, and the electricity in the air sparkles. Kaveh is a dear friend, and I was thrilled to attend this event and find out what he's been up to these years. What he was up to, apparently, was hosting Pulitzer/Laureate Wright, Vijay Seshadri, Director of the Sarah Lawrence College Non-Fiction Program, and a poet recently and many times featured in the New Yorker and elsewhere, and Tarpaulin Sky's Ana Bozicevic. Tarpaulin Sky Press, by the way, is a lovely punk-rockish press based in Vermont, which is a staple in the Indie fiction community and consistently publishes beautiful work. Bozicevic's collection, Stars of the Night Commute not excluded.

Bozicevic emigrated from Croatia to New York City at nineteen and read some of her newer work for us, stopping, truly charmingly, to explain certain parts of the poetry to us in the audience: "The part at L'Arc De Triomphe," (which Bozicevic mentioned in her poem Paris Pride Parade) "is true except that it's actually Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn." A part of what makes Bozicevic's work so wonderful is her ability to reference specific places, from all over the world, and make them feel as though they were anywhere, as though they were everywhere. "Oh, Mary," she read to us, "you are as beautiful as disbanded armies."

The next reader was Seshadri, my one-time professor. Though a fiction student, I was granted the chance to take Vijay's Craft of Poetry class. Which was the only class I ever got a grade B in, by the way. The class was hard, and one of the most meaningful two hours a week of my education. Once, Vijay had us memorize Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium" and recite it for him individually. When I asked "Why, why are we doing this? In one week no less!" He answered in the quick-witted, funny, and always truly moving way he speaks, with: "Well, you know, so you'll have it. Like if you're ever in a time where you need to think of something." Once, a year later, while waiting for a friend in a hospital emergency room, I found myself reciting "Sailing to Byzantium."

Vijay read newer and older work, including the famous lines, "First, I had three apocalyptic visions. The sea came up to swallow us all. Then I went downstairs and signed for three packages." Later, "The yellow kimono she wears to greet mankind," from "Guide for the Perplexed."
At the break, by the way, I noticed a young woman sitting next to me was reading Brecht's version of "Antigone." She told me it is for her sculpting class at NYU, and I thought that was lovely.

Charles Wright, who has written nineteen books of poems, is not modest. He asked for a Mick Jagger microphone, and he read to Kaveh specifically, and it was all a whirlwind of an experience and an honor to see him. On his newest work, Sestets, he said, "They're better taken as a whole, all 69 of them, and picking them out like cherries or rotting persimmons won't do justice to how great this book is." Later, "If you can't delight in the everyday, you have no future here, and if you can, you have no future either." "The metaphysics of the quotidian is what he was after," Wright read.

If you have the time and the mood to visit the metaphysical East Village of New York City, go to the Triptych Reading Series. Find Kaveh, he won't let you down.

Published Nov 17, 2009   Copyright 2009 Nicolle Elizabeth

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