The Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica looks like a nice enough place when you first enter. Seems quite civilized. Unless you are a human being with bodily functions that need to be addressed. No bathrooms for the peons with the wallets. This will give a poetry reading an added dimension that I’ll bet you’ve never considered. Maybe a little more visceral than one would like.
The reading took place in a fairly large room off to the side on the second floor. For an intimate poetry reading it was a little too resonant and stark.
Once Jamey introduced Timothy and the reading began, the starkness of the room was forgotten and it felt like we were all in a living room together, the intimacy that was lacking in the silence was found in the words.
Timothy read from his book “American Fractal“.
From Wikipedia… A fractal is generally “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole,” a property called self-similarity.
The poems in “American Fractal” follow this concept. Each poem is a reduced-size copy of the American whole. I’ll let Timothy explain it beautifully here… “The argument of the book, I guess you’d say, is that the same psycho-social patterns echo through all the layers of American strata. The personal, the familial, the political, the metaphysical. Our private passions, paranoia’s, obsessions, etc, manifest themselves on the national stage as well, and vice-versa. No matter how isolated and independent we feel, we’re all just strands in a web of interdependently arising phenomena — so all we do influences all we do…it’s a metonomous structure where any part, no matter how small, can be seen as a metaphor for the whole, and the whole as a metaphor for any part. ”
One at a time we heap our images
onto the table: a pot luck dinner.
Someone has brought the shoplifted
wristwatch, the keyed Caddy, a dead
fish in a mailbox–Aunt Edna says
it’s salmon though it looks like trout.
There are the tree limbs and toilet paper,
the dime bag of oregano, the fake ID.
I’ve brought a bowl of arson for
the turkey, its maniacal grin smoldering
up through the cinders. From the chair
where Dad used to sit, Mom drops
a mug-shot in the mashed potatoes,
a little careless now, a tired look in her
one good eye. No one says a thing.
My brother asks me to pass the peas.
Timothy finished his reading with the title poem, “American Fractal”, which he described as a “train poem”, the structure like train cars running across the page. It was read with passion and feeling and did the poem justice. The drama in the poem was a perfect way to end the reading.
With the introduction of Jamey Hecht, PhD, the evening became much louder. Jamey will shout in order to get your attention and then assail you with his series of 50 14-line poems based on the Zapruder film which chronicles the shooting death of President Kennedy. It’s an important topic and one that should always be shouted. His book, “Limousine, Midnight Blue: Fifty Frames from the Zapruder Film” clearly illustrates the film and puts it into proper perspective by pulling in ancient Greece, American culture, the politics and politicians, the bullets, the shooters, the duped, Death. The poems are named after numbered frames in the film. Each poem stands on it’s own but taken together, the book is almost overwhelming in it’s lucid telling of the truth. Anyone who has felt the frustration, confusion and disgust at the insulting lies and cover-ups that are involved in this event will appreciate the emotional outlet that Jamey’s sonnets provide.
Jamey is dramatic when he recites these poems and so in talking to him after the reading it was not surprising to find out that he’s a Shakespearean actor. He brings that skill with him to deliver his written word with aplomb.
If you have the opportunity to see either Timothy or Jamey read, don’t miss it.