Thursday, December 17, 2015

Writer in Trouble

I just received word that poet Michael Grover has cancer and in need of cooperative aid from the writer community. Here’s a link to a site dedicated to fundraising for him—with explanation of what’s happening:

I know Michael from my days in Philly when I was spearheading THE most radical writers group ever. (Underground Literary Alliance.) I met Mike in a large calling room in which we were both (ironically) fundraising for an ostensibly activist organization. I had something of a reputation at that time, as well as the loudest voice in the room. What struck me about Grover was his consistency—he could read the same script again and again and each time nail it perfectly. I recall that when I heard he was a poet I gave him a little bit of a hard time—mocking the art and its big names. He assured me there were talents outside the closed world of academe who were keeping the art form vital.

When I saw him read at a place on South Street one evening I realized he was right. He had several dynamic spoken word poets there, including his colleague Natalie Felix. Soon they moved their show to the Five Spot.

We became buds on the job—double-dating after work regularly with two ladies from the place. Since we usually went to the same bar on Walnut Street where they had great pitchers of margaritas, we started a little club named after the place, “The Moriarty’s Society.” Membership cards even.

 At some other point we formed another club—also with membership cards—called “Left Wing Wackos.” This because a rather buttoned-down bourgie caller would tell people on the phone, “We’re not a bunch of Left-Wing Wackos.” Grover would laugh and say, “But we are!”

To give another anecdote out of many: One afternoon the two of us were drinking at the famous Philly bar McGlinchey’s. Rather heavily. At one point I realized I was blitzed and said, “I won’t be able to make it,” about the job and called in sick. Michael determined to go in. He’s a guy who doesn’t show when he’s been drinking, but I knew he was blasted. He walked out of there in a straight line, staring ahead, his eyes fixed on his mission. I later heard he had one of his best evenings calling ever.

I read at a few of Grover’s events, and recruited him for a few ULA readings. Notably, at a benefit for a writer in Chicago in 2003, and at our Medusa show in Philadelphia in 2005—of which there’s video. We eventually had a falling out—at the time I was a hard charger and maybe even a little crazy.

I’ve always believed Michael Grover to be one of the absolute best spoken word poets in the country. Here’s hoping he gets well soon so he can continue his poetry making.

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