Book Party For Ira Cohen
i get this good crowd at the cornelia street cafe friday night,
the pink pony people maggie balistreri and her partner jackie
sheeler have the place packed for me god bless 'em, i drink
bottled water on stage and wave the around green bottle dramatically,
and i tell stories and read poems for an hour and then after
people don't want to leave, they're enjoying themselves too
much, a big crowd standing on the edge of the street making
a lot of noise, there are people eating at tables on the sidewalk
even though it is november they are curious about all the
poets filing out of the basement and standing around, what
is this big eyed chatting; but not overly, they have their
own agendas, taking advantage of the warm weather; incredible
sky over new york, a thin transparent luminescent sheet of
cloud lulling the world out of its newfound fearfulness.
but what i mean to say is this: after all that, i go to
see ira cohen do his thing on 23rd st in manhattan, book
party at a good space, called "true" and definitely a trendy
place. ira is definitely on his best game, a holy rambling
amiable guru just to the hip side of shtick, though complaining
of a headache the crowd loves him, looking for a bottom
of the ninth two out home run with every poem and more often
than not, getting it.
definitely a huncke crowd, wise and weary and hip and
stoned and gaunt.
typical ira cohen reading with a communal feel about it,
he does a good hour long grateful dead style endless riff,
holds the crowd in his hand throughout, the old wise wandering
aloof photographer artist poet with his nikon slung across
his breast, orange flowing robes and white flowing beard,
the hip beat creamsicle apostle of experience taking the
crowd with him from new york to san francisco, to the rarefied
bamiyan buddhistic air, hash houses of mazar-i-sharif, trekking
in kathmandu or dancing brilliantly with jane and paul bowles
through the dust sunny streets of tangiers. like me, ira
slept on afghani rope beds and awoke in the pre-dawn to
visit the great buddha of bamiyan. "not an afghani among
the terrorists," he says to me after, nodding south toward
battery park and ground zero. "course not," i say. "the
afghanis have more dignity than that."
all evening ira drinks double brandies in marty matz'
honor. you probably know marty the 315 pound opium dreaming
poet, plenty of bounce on rough edges, says howard hart,
a man who speaks of the teeth of mountains. marty, a body
full of alchemy and osiris and fried chicken, dreamed, hoped
for, realized, marty who died this week, ira is calling
for drinks and smokes and applause in memory of marty; and
the goodie girls, who published ira's book and who are wearing
bowler hats and who are grinning from ear to ear from their
seats somewhere above the crowd, are obliging.
altogether it is a magic gathering really, people feeling
easy enough with the situation to be easy with themselves,
the big easy, they close their eyes and drift off with ira's
words, they shout encouragement, they wander about the room
aimlessly. as for me i order a double brandy too and sit
with my back resting on an odd cagelike contraption, and
swirl it and swirl it, and listen to ira spin his stories;
the cage some kind of leather studded go-go thing, i suspect
the black lit red velvet room doubles as some kind of sado-masochist
dungeon or goth mecca on off evenings. in fact the atmosphere
of the entire reading is laced with a barely hidden licentiousness
and latent craving for immediacy and experience. though
"the death head appearing in the flowers of another spring"
is with us all, we are invited along as ira proclaims "the
mystery of my hand stretching to candle your thighs in the
tip of the night."
"what a pleasure to let the fire burn down on its own,"
intones ira, and we huddle close together to hear it.
then as a tribute to matz, ira reads marty's "less spiders
and more porcupines would make a better world" poem - in
addition to nearly all of his book akashic record, wow.
"i know where rainbows go to die," he says, quoting marty's
bob kaufman poem, and when he talks about marty's sparkle,
his eyes sparkle too.
ira sits magetic and marvellously and full of his age
on a barstool, backlit through his beard and hair on the
elevated stage, concludes many of his poems in this indrawn
guru manner, growling deep and low into the microphone.
makes me feel like i am one of his basso mystic revelatory
so many of the "next ones" of the beat generation are
passing on. and ira is feeling his age, "don't get old,"
he warns, and winks, knocks back a double brandy like it
is evening medicine, keeps on reading.
like ira says we are all a "harp of bones," and weary
of it at times. yet sometimes, we may sing of it, and beautifully.
on new york city nights like these, ira cohen does.