Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dionysus Reading :: March 10, 2011

Saralyn no like picture

Drunken Weirdos Confess and Entertain

About halfway through the process of putting this magazine together—for the second time—it sort of occurred to me that we might have made a mistake. 

We agreed early on that we would resist all forms of thematic consistency.  All of us had taken classes with a teacher who told us that her definition of “good” writing was “verbal surprise,” and we were all stuck by that in one way or another.  So, we would organize our magazine according to an inexplicably organic sense of flow, rather than adhering to genre associations or the alphabet.  Though I think we’re all too hesitant to admit it for fear of sounding pretentious, our decidedly ambiguous method has always been a point of pride. 

Once we started soliciting submissions, though, the confusion arose:

    “Submit to our magazine,” I would say.
    “What’s it called?”
    “Artichoke Haircut.”
    “What does that mean?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “What should I submit?”
    “Whatever you want….something good.”
    “How do I know if it’s good?”
    “How do you know if it’s good?”
    “I don’t know…”

…And so on.  Eventually, it started to feel like I was talking people out of submitting.  I’d wanted to inspire writers to create something surprising or to find something surprising in their existing work, by robbing them of expectations and parameters.  In practice, the approach just came off confusing and pointless.  At least, that’s what I was thinking as I headed into the March 10th reading at Dionysus. 

It was a rainy night and I was sick.  I remember telling Adam I shouldn’t have driven, having downed a rather heavy portion of cough syrup a few hours prior to our meeting up.  Melissa was worried that no one would show up, and so was I, though I was telling her not to worry.  We stood outside of the bar trying to “heckle” people into joining us.  Our utter lack of mission, which had at one point seemed inspiring, was disturbingly transparent.  So I busied myself, arranging and rearranging tables and chairs while people trickled awkwardly in.
Once the music started (a local band called Us and Us Only), my nerves started to calm a bit.  The open-mic sheet was filling up; the sound of bottles colliding softly behind me indicated an occupied bar.  Before the band’s set was over, I remember even having to shush people with a cold stare. 

The editor readings were no surprise to me (we read each others’ work constantly), but between Saralyn’s sincerity of tone and the disproportionate level of attention given to Adam’s elusive flask of Jameson, I started to feel like people were getting a real idea of what we, as editors and as friends, were all about.  I like to think that our readings helped set the tone for the rambunctious open-mic that followed, something I found delightfully surprising.
It started off abrasive, with Natan Lefkowits’s strange/funny/assaulting poems, and continued on in an intoxicating slur, ranging from embarrassing to desperate to outright hilarious pieces by some of the best writers you’ve probably never heard of.  Somewhere around the middle of Timmy Reed’s story about a tiger-liberation farce, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of success.  I realized that night, listening to the drunken weirdos confess and entertain, that the theme of our magazine had been happening to us, that the community of writers who had decided to assemble at that bar on that Thursday night, for whatever reason, was all the consistency we would need.  It was inexplicably organic.

So…If you read at Dionysus on March 10th and have not submitted, do it now.  If you’re thinking of submitting but don’t know what to say, come out to Dionysus on May 12th and find out what you’re getting yourself into.  Reveal something to us, about you and about ourselves.  Surprise us.

-By Jon Gavazzi

Ian Humphrey... reading?

For more pictures of the reading: www.flickr.com/artichokehaircut

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