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PLU Open Mic featuring Alice Notley

PLU Open Mic featuring Alice Notley

by JFMcG.

Every now and again, there are moments when I realize what Paris Lit Up really is. Moments when the generosity of writers and artists, musicians and poets light up the drizzly Parisian night with their words and songs, sharing their joy and warmth to a crowd of familiar strangers. Moments when it feels like I’ve known someone for twenty years even though I’ve never seen their face before. A lost tribe, scattered over the globe, casually finding itself together again for one evening and one evening only. Thursday was one of those moments.

Kate Noakes began the evening Milking It from some fragments she wrote last Sunday at her workshop at Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. She was followed by Thomas who brought some Old Baggage from his divorce and gave a lesson on Lovers and the Application of the Laws of Physics: attraction, repulsion. Venessa had a Saturday Night Fever (of 103°F) but got through it thanks to her medley of songs we all know too well. We were then fortunate to have Dónall Dempsy, co-organizer of Guildford’s Pop Up Poets, got his Autopsy captured on tape:

Natty Fresh, winner of most original penname, said This Poem Could Be About You and then BANG, it wasn’t. Another cohost of Guildford’s poets, Jan Windle, taught us How to Avoid Divorce: kill your 7 husbands! You can watch her video tutorial here on the right.

Imani gave up her virginity to Paris Culture Shock. Bill was back, although he’s been here for 35 years, with a Little Shadow from Latin America (yankee go home!) and explored the dreary space Between Seasons. A repeat appearance from Jem Rolls, performance poet hot off the Edinburgh circuit, gave us a prayer and a riddle with his Worship and then let us see into his demented brain with is post-postmodern Backstage Poem.

Finally we had the pleasure and honor of welcoming Nobel Prize nominee Alice Notley to our humble stage. Her mesmerizing flow of words held the audience captive as she recited new poems for the first time ever in public, including Gift, In Mind, Samson, and these few lines from Victorious:

You have nothing
but what you were,
your opposite
[…]
Your soreness is freedom

After the break we came back for an extended Round 2 featuring Song for a Seeker of Eden by David Leo Sirois and immortalized on film here:

He was followed by a bone-chilling performance by Davy singing Living on the Streets of Paris, literally bringing half the room to tears. Karol read an experimental sonnet, Chemcy inturrputed, then Bibi Jacobs (reading this Tuesday at Poets Live!) gave us a sneak preview of her new book with a piece called Hoarding, our youngest poet Nina had Things To Do Before Leaving For Oslow, Even Though We Won’t Like It There, Cheapskate Jenna is looking for an apartment and read Bill Knot’s Poem and Mr. Jem Rolls, stilled named Jem Rolls, came back and told us We Broke Up Because The Sex Was Too Good and reminded us that the Future Is Now!

Troy York was in the mood for correspondence and read a Letter to the Editor and a Letter from a Life Coach, Alex an Untitled piece, Helen was Unfed while making sculptures, the Bird had his last flight with Home Time, Steven forgot his suspenders and Remi complained about The Weather. We ended with James Jewell’s story about how a man Touched him in the métro.


Alice Notley grew up in Needles, California. She received a BA from Barnard College in 1967, and an MFA from the the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1969.

She moved about frequently in her youth and eventually married the poet Ted Berrigan in 1972, with whom she had two sons. In the early 1970s, Notley settled in New York’s Lower East Side, where she was very involved in the local literary scene for several decades. After Berrigan’s death in 1983, she married the British poet Douglas Oliver.

Though she is often identified as a prominent member of the eclectic second generation of The New York School, her poetry also demonstrates a continuing fascination with the desert and its inhabitants.

Notley’s collections of verse include Culture of One (Penguin, 2001); In the Pines (Penguin, 2007); Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005 (Weslyan University Press, 2006), which was awarded the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for the best book of the year; Disobedience (2001), winner of the 2002 International Griffin Poetry Prize; Mysteries of Small Houses (1998); The Descent of Alette (1996); Close to me & Closer . . . (The Language of Heaven) and Désamère (1995); To Say You (1994); Selected Poems of Alice Notley (1993); The Scarlet Cabinet (with Douglas Oliver, 1992); Homer’s Art (1990); At Night the States (1988); Parts of a Wedding (1986); Margaret and Dusty (1985); Sorrento (1984). Her collection How Spring Comes (1981) received a 1982 San Francisco Poetry Award.

She has said that her speech is the voice of “the new wife, and the new mother” in her own time, but that her first aim is to make a poem, rather than present a platform of social reform.

Notley has received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2001, she received both an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. She currently lives in Paris.

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