The Underground Literary Alliance put on an awesome show yesterday at The Underground in Philadelphia. Tremendous literary entertainment from the get-go.
Everyone was in top form: Wred Fright reading from Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus had the crowd in hysterics. Jelly Boy the Clown did some sword swallowing then read from his journal. (Zeen writing at its best.) The Idiom Poets (www.walkingenglish.com) turned out to be five young attractive enthusiastic poets from New Jersey, one of the nation's best young troupes.
Jessica Wilber (formerly Disobedience) was a revelation, both when reading at our event and at our afterglow party at a restaurant down the street afterward, when I recited a few lines from Shakespeare and she came back at me with Puck's speech at the end of "Midsummer's Night Dream," said with great verve and emotion. Jessica is one of the most talented young writers in America. If you've never seen her read, you should.
Yarrow Regan's presentation was hilarious. Before a quick smoking break, Toussaint St. Negritude, musician and poet, played and read a tribute to Coltrane. Toussaint has just moved to Philly from the west coast. We're fortunate to have his poetic talent in our town.
After the break was a hilarious interview, conducted by Yarrow, with both "World's Greatest Poet" Frank Walsh, wearing cape and sunglasses and looking overconfident, and with the manager/creator of the SuperPoet, Dr. Malerkus, with the SuperPoet glaring and occasionally yelling insanely from the rear of the stage.
We put on two more quick readers before SuperPoet's medication wore completely off, St. Slippy de Croix, a late addition, who quickly wowed the crowd, then "Experimental Writer" Mark Sonnenfeld, who more bemused, confused, frustrated, and enlightened them with his play of words. Both were effective.
Then, the Main Event!
In Round One both poets were off a bit. Frank Walsh took the round by moving into the crowd while reciting "The Thing that Wouldn't Die." The audience was thrilled, or amazed, to have "The World's Greatest Poet" suddenly in their midst.
In Round Two The SuperPoet came right back at Frank, mocking his actions by disturbingly closing himself in the bathroom with the microphone and reading from there (the genetically-engineered poet was unpredicatble throughout, as if there were a flaw in his wiring). He read from inside the closed room a parody of Walsh's famous "Gas Man" poem-- something of a low blow. Though Frank recited one of his better poems, about the MOVE bombing, the SuperPoet's stunt edged him out. The SuperPoet stole the round.
Round Three: the contest up for grabs. Both poets came out with their best stuff, like heavyweight boxers exchanging blows. SuperPoet read a postmodern piece, with voice changing intermittently from soft to loud, which caused the audience to have sympathy for him, making himself, this Frankenstein-like hulking figure, into something of a tragic character. It was kind of a low tactic in itself, saying lines to the effect of "I'm sick," said with surprising pathos. Would the Ivy League creation of science and money steal the event?
Not to worry. Frank Walsh closed with "Reagan's Brain," which has prevailed in all settings in the past, and did so again now. I consider it (seriously) to be Walsh's masterpiece. Music, meaning, comedy, tragedy, that single poem has it all. Seeing Frank read it is alone worth any admission price.
We had a good crowd considering a snowstorm was going on! The venue was perfect, a real cool-cat style underground club. We plan to be back. Those who weren't there missed the most exciting writers group on the planet, along with some dynamic friends. Thanks to The Underground and to all involved in making the show a success.