I give Guy crazy amounts of credit for helping me early on in poetry but the first person that I can honestly say was an inspiration was Eric Guerrieri.
The first six or so poets I saw onstage at 13 were loud, I mean the first person I ever saw was Beau Sia, and while the rest didn’t have his exact energy they sure as hell were louder than a normal conversation. Leading Oscar to say to himself, “I can not be that loud unless I am fighting with someone.” Then everybody also had their poems memorized which seemed like the most amazing thing on Earth to me at the time.
“OK, to be a poet you have to memorize a damn commencement speech.”
Then you had everybody being real pissed with the majority of the work sounding like rants more than anything else (the more things change…) and the quote.work.unquote I was producing at the time was short and introspective (which is another way to say corny love poems) making them the exact polar opposite of what I was hearing. In my gut, I knew that a long rant of bombastic volume was not my cup of tea, even back then.
The crowd was giving the work some really strong reactions though leading me to question if the place my gut was leading me was not going to be the stage. Mind you, I had no idea what the stage was really about anyway so that into itself was not going to be a tragedy. I stopped by 13 on a whim. Now that I was here, it was straight recon all the way and if my intel said that I wasn’t cut for this “spoken word” scene then so be it.
Just as I was ready to acknowledge that feeling as fact, Eric Guerrieri comes to the stage with page in hand, sets up the music stand, grabs a chair and just starts reading. No hyperbole, no fireworks, no extra bass. Just straight up reads a poem. I wish I could remember which one it was exactly (I don’t) but I do know it sang to me. It involved narrative and imagery with an overlying metaphor that when you got to the end brought you back to the beginning. Right then and there, I knew that I could write like that. Not sure exactly what I was gonna write about but that looked like the right path to go down.
There were other performances and most of the were really stellar and inspired me in their own way but the one that kept me from calling the night a failed experiment was e(g)’s.
photo by peter dressel
Later on, I would get to know Eric as a host which is another great influence he has had on me. The mic is a rough place and you don’t know shit until you’ve hosted. Going up there over and over regardless of how good the night is. I mean, of course its fun when you have a kick ass feature and a hungry crowd but try doing that shit on a night with six fuckers in the seats, a heckler and a whack ass feature… uh huh, not the greatest spot on earth. e(g) is lucky in that his skin is dense enough to repel all that shit. On the occasion, I will be told that my hosting skills are butt… on those occasions I just laugh at folks and move cuz I would just LOVE to see them do it on the regular.
The most fun though was the two moth louderWORKSHOP that he taught. One of my best pieces that I never read came from that workshop, that and me learning that workshopping is all about making people feel secure in their writing- errors and brilliance all together in the same basket.
Things in NYC Poetry will continue without e(g) the same way you can’t tell the difference from all the folks running around when you are high up. The way all the automobiles look like toy cars and the skyscrapers like building blocks. The nice thing about that view is that it give you a chance for some perspective and too keep your head up… I hope Eric makes the best of that opportunity.
Hasta la pasta…