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Wayward as Shelley : More Aughts Philadelphia

Wayward as Shelley : More Aughts Philadelphia

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Published by Adam Fieled
This pdf continues Adam Fieled's investigation of Aughts Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Renaissance, and the Philly Free School.
This pdf continues Adam Fieled's investigation of Aughts Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Renaissance, and the Philly Free School.

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Published by: Adam Fieled on Feb 25, 2014
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03/16/2014

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WAYWARD AS SHELLEY: MORE AUGHTS PHILADELPHIA ADAM FIELED
 
 READING REPERTOIRES: 2000-2004
 With or without other PFS constituents, or with PFS adjuncts like Jae Won Chung, Will Esposito, and Christian TeBordo, Philly-lit old guard stalwarts like Jim Cory, Alexandra Grilikhes, and Leonard Gontarek, and at venues which ranged from small-scale, intimate dens like Book Trader while it was still at 5th and South to the Kelly Writers House on the Penn campus (especially during the years I was finishing my degree at Penn), I did readings galore during the first half of the Aughts in Philly. I had a standard repertoire to draw from- the flagship poems were three I had written in State College in '98-
Of the three, "Clean" is the most serious, both formally and thematically:
I gave myself an enema the other day, took some antibiotics. Thought to myself,
“This is really the poet’s
 place in the world
 not sitting in some pasture, not smoking in some bar, not fucking someone lovely, not courting Gods or Jesus. No.
The poet’s place
 is kneeling down, naked,  with something or other stuck
 
up his ass, in a desperate attempt to get
clean.”
 
The poem can be taken as a queer poem par excellence (though the poem did not originate from queer experience per se), or an allegorical rendering of human frailty generally; and the meta-oratory level of the poem's construction and self-representation hinges it to the metaphysical conceits of Donne, Marvell, and Herbert. Plus, it was amusing enough that I could get a hearty laugh out of almost any crowd with it. "Prince" and "Disappear" were crowd-charmers, too- I had a more than decent show stopping and stealing ratio in those days. Certain nights stand out as extraordinary- one night in early '01, I read at Tritone with Matt Stevenson accompanying me on keyboards. Something clicked, and we achieved a kind of transcendental lift-off, and (I felt at the time) took our audience of 15-20 with us. The Philly poetry reading circuit in the early-to-mid Aughts was limited, but had some points of interest. The 
, ten years older than the wonted tag-team combo of myself and 
, were very hyped on ruling their own roost, and subjecting all comers to their protocols. They were queer, and well-connected- to institutions like Penn and Temple, the Philly avant-professor crowd (DuPlessis, Perelman, Osman), and to the Poetry Project crowd in New York. Conversely, they  viewed themselves as extremely "street," and prided themselves on writing in a street-consonant way. Their downfall, even then, was a rote and rigid insistence on being treated as absolute aristocrats everywhere they went in Philly. To them, Jeremy and I were
 parvenu 
, not worthy to be discussed or (God forbid) asked to read in their La Tazza series. Their version of Philly was South Philly working class, and anti-academic- its just that (as we noticed), because they constantly sought out the patronage of the avant-prof bourgeoisie to justify themselves, they were also easily dismissed as hypocrites, leeches, liars, and cowards; and by 2005, they were openly aping our moves. Nonetheless, we were always running into them, and C.A. Conrad, their reigning figurehead, worked with me at B & N. The  American Poetry Review guys, Steve Berg and his cronies, were also around and, like Philly Sound,  were such repellant aristocrats that almost everyone just ignored them. This liminal period, between This Charming Lab and the major '04-'06 PFS shows, was an interesting one for me- it coincides with the first two years I spent with 
 (2001-2003), and Abs was around us constantly. As all the burgeoning Philadelphia Renaissance characters fumbled youthfully around for direction, most of us had a sense of upward progression- that we were working towards something unique and worthwhile. It was a time of creative gestation for us. To the extent that This Charming Lab was a failed version of PFS, I was gaining competence skills, on different levels, as collateral benefit from the readings we were doing, and the pace of things for all of us was leisured and comfortable. If my writing then was comparatively directionless, I was still planting creative seeds to bear distinctive, representative fruit later. Final note: Abs took this picture of me at a Radio Eris gig somewhere on Chestnut Street in 2002.

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