A MUSICAL PERFORMANCE OF A BOOK OF POETRY
Hello. This is going to be a brief blog about something I and some friends did to promote my book published this year, EVERY DAY I WILL REMEMBER. I’ve been trying to get knowledge of, and interest in this book about the Holocaust “out there.” (I’m pretty out there myself.) So I’ve been approaching various venues that might be interested; there’s a lot of different stuff you could do with this book. I even made up a marketing package which I sent to several places in Chicago-land; it had a cover letter, an autobiography (brief), a head shot of me, a list of publications and a free copy of the book. That was back in October; so far no one from any of those places has responded.
The other thing I’ve been doing a lot is open mics, where at least some of the book’s poems are included, along with other unrelated poems. This is where things get interesting. One of my friends, the musician Eric Peter Schwartz, invited me to an open mic out in Dekalb, IL (about a 45 minute drive west of here). I wasn’t going to go, but then I thought, why not? So I went, and I read some about the Holocaust, and some other things. It went well enough, I thought, and it was an audience I didn’t know. A little after we started, a young keyboardist, Mykayla Gibson, arrived, and also performed with the audience’s participation: she doesn’t read music, but as she said, her real talent was improvisation. So she asked the audience to throw out ideas for a movie, and she would improvise a soundtrack. We were all shouting out stuff, and boy, did she play. It was a blast!
As the open mic wound down and people left, Eric, Mykayla and I were still there, and I had an idea: I opened EVERY DAY to a poem, showed it to Mykayla, and asked her if she could improvise around it. She said, oh, yeah, sure. I said, okay and we did it. Wow! It added so much more to the poem; all three of us were kind of weepy-eyed. So I proposed something; would Eric and Mykayla be willing to improvise as I did a selective reading from the book in a public event. They said yes, and we were off and running. We didn’t have much time to get it together—about only a month—so we had to hustle. I found a place to do it, we met and talked about what poems I’d picked, and what musically I’d like to have happening. (I’m a professionally trained composer, and still write little bits sometimes, usually on commission. But I wouldn’t call myself a composer anymore; the point is I know what you can do with music.) The event was set: the Aurora (IL) Public Library was set up, the sound system was in place, the refreshments were available, the cameras were in place, and on Sunday, 3 November 2019, at 3:00 p.m., Eric did the introductions, and we were off. It was GREAT. People responded well, my band (I think every poet should have a band—think of the late Jim Morrison and the Doors, or the late Leonard Cohen. I like to say it—silly, I know), was hot, and it was worth the limited time we had to get it together. We had a 15 or 20 minute Q&A afterwards, and even that was fun.
So now what? Mykayla moved back to Denver after Thanksgiving, so my band is over. But as Eric and I were talking one day, we thought it could still work even with a solo guitar. Now we’re thinking about doing an abbreviated tour of some of the colleges in the state, and keep working on getting the word out. It’d have to be in the second part of the year; Eric’s already booked for the first part of the year. And of course, as with any tour, there are financial considerations: fuel, lodging, meals—yet neither of us have any money. So we’ll just see what transpires.
I said this was going to be a short blog. Well, what can I say? I want to talk more about the role of music in my poetry, but that’ll have to be a different blog. Maybe my next one; I don’t know.