MIKE GROVER TAKES A GREYHOUND THERE AND BACK AND DOES IT UP!
WHOSE WHO WHATS WHAT..... AND WASSUP...........
AS THE ULA INITIATES THE NEW CRITIQUE WITH A REPORT ON:
The Connecticut Beat Poetry Festival 2008
Presented by The Spoken Word Series
"Once Allen Ginsberg drew the line after having read Howl, the world was never quite the same.And now a new time has come "
[BUT THE ULA CRITIQUE ASKS THE NEOS WHERE WAS KEROUAC OR DID THEY BLAME THE PRICE OF GAS?]
"Here's the report ....
"I just tried to catch all of the madness and tie it into the shows. There is gonna be a much bigger report in the new CPJournal when it comes out. Probably next month it will be in its new online home."
MIKE GROVER, 6/15/08.
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Day 1 Tuesday 6/3/08: This was the first day for me. Technically it was the third day. John Dorsey said
he had caught the show the night before and it was pretty good. I spent Monday on a Greyhound (Who can
afford to drive these days?). I called Lester Allen from the bus as I got close to Hartford. He informed
me that the organizer of the event could not show up to pick me up. It was now his job to do so. He was
just passing through New York City and would not be there on time.
So at this point I'm freaking out. I am arriving in Hartford two hours before my reading, desperately
needing a shower and a coffee, and no one was picking me up. As the bus pulled in I saw the smiling faces
of John Dorsey and Dan Provost outside, and I got so happy.
I had told John what time I was getting in and they figured this may happen as they had heard the tales
of Juice getting stranded at the airport last night. My rescuers and I crammed into Dan's pick-up truck
and we were off.
It was said that Juice was staying at a hotel downtown and Provost thought he could find it, and I could
shower there. The problem was we couldn't find it. By the time I got Juice on the phone and got directions,
we had called Lester and he was at the hotel. It was by the airport. So we got a ticket for an illegal
left turn and we asked the cop for directions to the airport. Dan was not happy.
We got to the airport to call Les and find out it was not the main airport, but the one on Brainard Road.
At this point Dan just lost it. He said I would have to do the reading without a shower as it was about time
to go to the venue. I knew how to get there as I saw the exit on the way in. We called Les to pick up Juice.
The truck was dead silent on the way and I felt bad for the promoter. He had three pissed off poets to deal
Something about Dan Provost that you should know at this point is that he is a big, tough, ex-football
player who is now a coach, and he is not the kind of guy you want mad at you. So we arrived at the reading,
Dan shoots out of the truck, past the historic houses in the front where at one time George Washington planned
the american revolution. Down the path up the back to the barn where the reading was. He pushed the promoter
back in the chest with both hands, and the promoter landed on his ass. Provost then stood over him yelling
as I stood there smiling and the older women putting on the festival looked on with horror.
As Provost walked away, he got up. I looked him in the eye and said, "I need a shower.". I walked back up
the path with Dan who kept apologizing for doing this at my show. I told him it was no big deal. He did what
needed to be done. John Dorsey and I unpacked my bags and suitcase from the back of the truck and Dan said
he would meet us at the tavern on the corner. So Dorsey and I walked into the barn with all my luggage, me with
the stink of two days on a Greyhound. I was like a hobo poet.
The promoter looked at me and asked what I needed to perform. I told him a shower, decent food, and coffee.
He could not do a lot about the shower but he took us to the pizza place on the corner and bought us pizza and
a coffee. I was feeling better after that.
We got back to the barn and the realization hit me that the show must go on. I went and washed off in the
sink as good as I could, put on tons of deodorant, and put on a clean shirt. I was ready to go right? Lester showed
up with Juice and Jim Deuchars. I had my crowd and I was ready.
I'm pretty resilient and all drama aside I put on a perfect show. The crowds reaction showed that. Dorsey and I did
sell a lot of books to the locals that night.
Another highlight of that night was Milwaukee's Amelia Matus. She was beautiful and angelic. She had almost
a hypnotic quality about her. Her poetry was hard and real and you felt whatever she did. At some point during her
reading Dorsey turned to me and said we need to do a chapbook for her. I know John Dorsey knows poetry better
than most and I have never not followed his advice so I agreed.
I went and talked to Amelia about it after the show was over, and she was happy. I introduced her to John.
And with her entourage and my luggage in tow we went to the pub where Dan was drinking and had a great time.
What a night.
Day 2 Wednesday 6/4: This has nothing to do with the festival but sometime in the early morning hours
Juice was outside wandering around the hotel on Brainard when he witnessed the night manager get pistol whipped,
and robbed for forty five dollars.
The guy looked up and saw him and ran, and Juice ran and hid and called us.
Next thing we know a police dog is going though the hall. We're putting all the pot on the window ledge.
Tonight was Jack Kerouac
night at the Charter Oak Cultural Center. I believe the term "Beard" was coined
as we were lost again driving around looking for the place, our friend Jacob Johansen who was reading said
"I'm sure my "Beard" friends are gonna be here." And we did make it, just before the reading started.
Aleathia Drehmer was the first reader, and she was very good. But Jacob stole this show tonight. In true
spirit of me the night before, I believe he was straight off a twenty-six hour drive. And he delivered.
Later there was an open-mic at the Arch Street Tavern. We all ripped it up. Dan Provost, John Dorsey,
Amelia Matus, Juice, Katie Kaboom, Aleathia, Jim Deuchars, Lester Allen, Jacob and myself. I met a woman named Blue
there. This will be important later. After the reading Amelia came up to me, and informed me that her grandmother
that raised her was on her deathbed, and she was asking to see her. She had to leave tomorrow. She asked if I would
sell her chapbooks for the rest of the week. I instantly felt compassion as I just lost my grandmother. We hugged a lot.
She smelled like angels. I had more books to sell.
Day 3 Thursday 6/5: Another thing that has nothing to do with the festival. At some point in the early morning
Dan Provost buys about ten gas station sandwiches from the Shell station on Brainard, and takes them back to the room.
The term "Danwich" is invented.
Tonight we did not get lost going to the Wood Memorial Library. This is different. Lester Allen, and Jim Deuchars
have their features tonight. They were reading with LisaAnne Lobasso. I knew I knew her name, and it probably sounded
like a cheap pick-up line when I asked her if we had met before. But it turns out I had booked a show for her at the
reading I hosted at The Five Spot in Philly a few years ago.
People were beginning to call us "The Beards" tonight. I guess the name stuck. Blue came up to me before the show
and said she had to buy my chapbook. So she did.
Local poet Maggie Greene really impressed me with her feature tonight. In fact this was the first night that everyone
was good. Katie Kaboom and Blue each had a grape soda can that was full of Jim Beam. Katie was passing hers among the
Beards. Lester and Jim each turned it great readings. Lester did great considering the first time he ever read was the
open-mic last night. And Deuchars was very personable and interacted with the crowd alot. He was very animated and gave
a solid performance.
They decided to do an open mic after this considering the talent that they had in town so we took a break before that.
John Dorsey, Jim Deuchars, and I were found behind the shed out back smoking pot with Katie. When we went back Katie began
bringing beers into the library. This just kept getting better and better. This was crazy for a library. This was
The open mic was awesome. There was just a great energy to the place. I know I gave my best performance of the whole
festival, and I believe John Dorsey would say the same. Other highlights were Aleathia, Jacob, Katie and there were some
damned good locals.
Day 4 Friday 6/6: This poetess named Blue and I were seen on the bed of the hotel having a deep drunken conversation all
night, which ended in us making a date for Saturday, and her passing out with her head on my chest.
That night the Beards headed to a pool hall and had a little fun before making it to the Hall Memorial Library where it would
be woman's poetry night and Blue was to be one of the features along with now honorary Beard for her balls at the library the night
before Katie Kaboom,
We arrived at the reading. I checked on Blue's condition first thing which was hung over. She was very nervous about her
reading. I told her she would do great.
Katie Kaboom "The Bearded Lady" was awesome. Her set was animated and full of energy and emotion. There was a Christine Beck
that did a great set of Anne Waldman poems. She was very good. I would have liked to seen her do her own stuff. Blue was last
and she was amazing. Easily out did Katie's performance earlier with all of the same qualities that allowed her to steal the show.
After that we went to some yuppie bar for a party for the Beat Fest where we could not really afford much and did not really
Day 5 Saturday 6/7: Blue the poetess and I were seen back at the hotel room in the early morning hours at the same exact spot
on the bed that we were the morning before. This time it's not as smooth. John Dorsey and Lester lay on the other bed watching
the whole room just as they did the morning before.
So today was the day of the big date. We got to the first show at The Buttonwood Tree, so I waited outside for her, and she arrived
with Katie and Jacob. As we stood outside George Wallace came up, and John Dorsey and I were talking to him. We went inside and Blue made
sure I sat next to her. This was a great show. Easilly the best I had seen at the festival.
The first poet Kenneth Lundquist was very good. He read a very mystical poem that went over a lot of peoples heads. Lisa C. Taylor turned
in a good set.
The next poet was the highlight of the whole festival
as George Wallace took the stage. I have read his stuff on his blog and knew he was
very good. But I never realized how rhythmic his poems are. How they were all really written to be performed and seeing him perform just put
it all together. He was amazing.
Next was Dan Wilcox who was probably the second best poet I saw all week. His stuff was very strong. The highlight was him changing Ginsberg's
song "Don't Smoke" to "Don't Vote". He was awesome.
At that point I knew the next venue was walking distance from where we were so Blue and I made our way down the street. As we passed restaurants
I asked her if she was hungry, and she said no. It was time for the so called main event which featured the much hyped poems of Frank Reardon and
Rob Plath. I was not sure if they were worthy of such praise. I would find out tonight. That was for sure.
This started with an open mic. All of the Beards participated, Blue read, George Wallace, Zach Moll was featuring tonight, and he read. There was
a lot of energy to the open mic.
The features started off with someone I will not name. It was awful. He was screaming and putting up this macho
front. It was all for nothing. There was nothing behind his work. It was terrible. Blue and I began to talk. I guess he remembered my name from the
open mic and started calling me out. I knew he did not wanna go there. I just ignored him.
Next the host and promoter that got knocked on his ass earlier in the week tried to call Rob Plath up to read. Rob Plath said he could not read now.
Which was strange to me. I said something about an ego, he attacked me from the stage saying
"Who has an ego?"
He asked me and I had no problem telling him. Rob Plath obviously has an ego if the host calls him up and he says no. That did not hurt me one bit.
He then called up Zach Moll from Ohio who is very good for a poet in his early twenties and it is obvious will be a powerhouse some day. His words
rang with truth, emotion, and energy.
Next the promoter called up Rob Plath again. He still was not coming up. I was not gonna say anything. Blue just looked at me and laughed. So he called
up my bearded brother Jason "Juice" Hardung who stole the damn show. His energy, words, and performance was superior to anything that had happened at this
venue tonight, and would be at the end of the night.
He tried to call up Plath again. I can see why he would not want to follow Juice. At that point Frank Reardon read who I was disappointed in I must say.
It's nothing personal, he's a great guy, but when you get up there on the stage you can use a bunch of harsh words for effect, and really say nothing, or
you can say something, and dazzle people with good art. It seemed he chose the first path. I knew one of his best poems from his blog. Blue was asking me
how long he was gonna go on like this. So right before he performed his last poem I told her, "Watch this, he's gonna read a good poem."
She sounded like she doubted it. She said, "Oh really?"
"Yeah, he's got the potential." I said. Then I screamed from my seat "Write Like A Lunatic."
And he said, "Oh you want to hear that one."
He read it and Blue turned to me and said, "Wow you were right." That last poem was awful good.
Next Jack Henry from California read. He seemed to be off to a slow start so we Beards encouraged him, and he really picked things up by the end. It was a
good reading, and I was happy for Jack. I gave him all the support I could.
Now that everyone had read it seemed Rob Plath had no choice but to get up and read. He was in bad shape. On beer and painkillers. He got up and started,
and I hate to say it, but he was not that good. As soon as he realized the crowd was not gonna shut up for his reading, he stopped mid poem and started whining
about it. I am of the opinion that you cannot ask or expect the audiences respect you have to get up and take it. I vocalized this to him.
He continued to read with his wife and some guy that was with them screaming at the crowd to shut the fuck up. And it was a train wreck. You could see Rob
falling apart on the stage. I felt for him. I kept telling them he had to earn respect and not expect it. So when he was done, the last poem he read was a good
one though the performance was shaky. When he was done his wife was yelling, "Come on, one more baby." And he said no he was done.
He got off the stage and the guy that was with them got up. He grabbed the mic and said, "Fuck the Beards!"
Now here I was, right in front of the stage, on a date with a beautiful woman, who would probably get really scared if I were to get up and do something about
this, but fuck it. The bond of the Beards was more sacred than this, so I sprang up out of my chair as he was doing some performance mocking poetry. I screamed at
him, "Fuck the Beards? No fuck you!" And it was on. Lester was right behind me that was all I knew. I could hear the others in the background. I saw Blue get up and
fly out of her chair like she was running from a war zone. The guy got off the stage, and came up and shook my hand. At that point the promoter got up and started saying
stuff about the Beards. I started screaming at him. Les was right behind me. I made a rush for the stage and he was gone. At that point the bartender and owner of the bar
was right behind us. Hugging us, telling us he loved us. It was wild. We took some group shots with him. I apologized to Blue, she said it was fine. What a night of
Day 6 Sunday: Early in the morning Lester drove us back to the hotel on Brainard scared as shit because he was messed up on painkillers. We all arrived safely.
Today was the last day and it was kind of sad, but in a way we were kind of ready for it. We were all drained from the week
The first show was an afternoon show at the Twain House. Local poet Kathryn Kelly gave a great and emotional performance. There was so much compassion to what she did.
So much feeling. It was so beautiful.
Rebecca Schumejda gave a really performance also. After the show there was an open mic. It was good. Not as good as others. John Dorsey read an S.A. Griffin poem.
That was really the highlight of the open mic.
After that we headed over to the finale. It was at The City Steam Brewery. John Dorsey was to host a reading dedicated to his former friend Gregory Corso. Dan Provost
was the first feature. He started off the show by banging on stuff. He gave an emotional real performance. One of the best I have seen all week. Provost was on.
The other feature Lisa LaTourette had not showed up so Dorsey had Blue read some of her stuff from his and her new upcoming Zygote flipbook. Blue gave a great reading
of Lisa's stuff.
There was an open mic that featured all the usual suspects from the week. Lisa then showed up and read her own stuff. She was very good.
After the open mic John Dorsey did a feature to close out the festival and John Dorsey is a great writer and performer, the total package, which made for a great and
memorable preformance to end the festival.
What a week. I said my goodbyes to all of my brothers that I had made this week, and to Blue and headed to the bus station for the long ride home. I know this write-up
might have offended some people. I'm sorry if it did. It wasn't personal. I just told the truth
NY poet Wallace, credit this and all photos: MIKE GROVER, CP JOURNAL@2008