Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poems and Punks: Literazzi's Night of Madness

I had a hell of a birthday party this year and it was called Literazzi. Originally conceived as a gathering for my 32nd birthday, I also wanted to use it as a benefit for a cause close to my heart, literacy. I tutor for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council and felt like I could do a little more. With my previous experience in rock bands and event planning, I figured it would be easy to put together a one-night only performance of poetry and perhaps a live band or two.

I figured wrong.

No, it wasn't easy. It came together only because so many people were willing to volunteer their time, talent, and products so unselfishly. First of all, the flyer that you see at the left was designed pro-bono by the amazing Ryan Cerbus. It was a difficult thing to boil all the goings-on into a clean and simple format, but he did it with ease. And quickly, because the clock was running down. Even though I planned for months, nothing was absolutely firm until about the week before. Such is my life. Hard copy flyers were printed, under the gun, by Alexander Dorantes. Al and I have worked together on numerous projects and he's unfailingly generous with his help and friendship.

The evening began with my short intro, after my fiance, the Reverend, introduced me like the Boss introducing Clarence. My piece was meant to give context to the evening and some statistics about literacy in Pittsburgh. It ended up very "Subterranean Homesick Blues"-y, but that's not really a bad thing. Even though it was the very beginning of the evening, guests were on their first drinks and groaned a bit that I was making them read. I didn't budge. (I could, however, hear my Aunt Kathy reading the cards aloud from the back of the room, to oblige the restless.)

Throughout the rest of the evening, I just ran around. I introduced all the poets and gave away raffle prizes from our supporters of literacy around the country. This list of people ended up
so illustrious that I was kind of stunned: Graywolf Press, The Rumpus, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, the Cotton Factory, Pure Romance (by Daisy Brewer), Pop Damage, local artists Ann Sanders and Vickie Maize, Joe Baumiller of the Carson Street Deli, and Howler's (our host venue) all donated their products. The only disappointing thing was that I couldn't bid on my own prizes, because there was such great stuff.

(From left to right, above: Jocelyn Hillen, Michael McGovern, Patti Emory, and Ashly Nagrant)

I can't thank my poets enough. Each one was so unique and on-point; the diversity really highlighted the cache of outstanding writers we have in Pittsburgh. My only real regret about the night is the lack of photos of Nikki Allen and Jenn D, the two performers who closed the poetry portion, because not only are they beautiful but their sets were overwhelmingly awesome. Click their links to check out their work in lieu of just looking at photos.

A note about the noise: it was perhaps not the most conducive thing, to have poetry in a bar. It worked, to an extent, but also (as the Rev said) "That's what happens when punks and poets meet." I know that the front half of the room was listening intently and I hope the performers could tell, too.

At right, Jocelyn made me cry.

At left, Lance Cheuvront and the Reverend.

In between poets, we rapidly gave away raffle prizes. The Rev surprised me with a huge cake (enough to feed the whole crowd and carried by one of my oldest friends, Joe Baumiller, his smiling face reflected in the candles) that read "Happy Birthday Mrs. Darcy," causing most of the women in the crowd to positively swoon, including myself. I was so bowled over that I couldn't even take in the fact that 60+ people were singing Happy Birthday to me. It was wonderful and embarrassing and touching. It was a moment that I'll go back to for the rest of my life; a few minutes where I can actually say I had stars in my eyes. We let them eat cake.

After the poets, it was time for Punk Rock Karaoke. Howler's does a regular event with these guys, who learn punk songs so that YOU can be the lead singer. I was so jazzed that they agreed to play; it completed Literazzi. The sign-up list was (shown at right) was so populated and the crowd was so into it that I think even the band was impressed. (I'm at #5: "Life During Wartime.")

Everyone was drunk enough by this time that there was no lack of singers and no lack of being entertained by those brave enough to get up onstage and share the love.

This highlight reel includes a lot of my best friends and it's basically the best birthday present ever:

All told, after my fretting and running around like crazy trying to keep everything under control, we made over $600 for the GPLC. My original estimate was $250. Talk about exceeding expectations.

Some final thank yous:

Victoria Maize, who made the door possible, both by getting there early and controlling the donations for most of the evening. Vickie, I feel like you stepped up to bat and effin' knocked it out of the park. She also donated some amazing art that drew a lot of raffle money and made me seriously jealous that someone else won.

My aunts...(pictured: me, Aunt Debbie and Aunt Ellen; not pictured: Aunt Kathy)...without these three ladies, the night would not have been possible. They got to the venue early to set up because my silly ass was still changing out of my Hippolyta costume from the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream I was in that same night. They are unfailingly supportive through every seemingly crazy idea I have. They. Are. The. Best. Ladies. Ever.

The Reverend, pictured here singing "The KKK took My Baby Away," who has never once told me that there was something I could not do. He has tried to gently suggest that I not lose my mind trying to suck the very marrow out of life, but he has never discouraged me in any endeavor. Without his help in keeping this event under control, it would have crashed around my ears. This previous statement is true about my entire life. Without his help in keeping it under control, it would crash around my ears.

Thank you to Howler's for hosting, to Mary Jo for helping to bring it all together (and enduring my rather embarrassing thank you and gift from the stage), Rima Campbell for guidance in planning and general encouragement, Mindi Harkless for taking pictures, Eric Carroll for unfailing support and more pictures, and EVERYONE that attended.

Thank YOU. And YOU. And YOU.

Also, congratulations to my brother for winning the coveted "Drunkest Ross" contest by a wide margin.

Now I'm going to sleep for seven years.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What are you up to, Kristin?

Photo by Eric Carroll

Well. July was exhausting. After A Midsummer Night's Dream with Poor Yorick's Players and Literazzi, I am well and truly spent.

There are exciting things on the horizon, even as I take a couple of weeks off and step back from the chaos. This week is planning, thinking, and HEAVENStobetsy, I have to clean my house.

  • Literazzi wrap-up blog and MANY MANY thank yous to the amazing people that made it happen
  • I'm interviewing Murder By Death on Monday; exciting!
  • The advent of The Planning Committee podcast, featuring me, James Foreman, and Dave Stone
  • I'm reading and reviewing Mary Roach's new book Packing for Mars. I love this woman, I love her writing in general, and I already love this book.
  • My email interview with author Alyson Hagy is almost finished; we've been playing with a new back-and-forth email format that should prove interesting.
  • A treatise on Drake's Thank Me Later for soldout music. One of the strangest pieces of writing I've done.
  • I'm turning our living room into what the Reverend is calling "Little Britain." It's going to be totally fabulous.
Also, I am not saying that I know the women who did this, but I will say I love them. Meet JGWTF : a blog that the world truly needs.