Tag Archives: The Big Big Mess

Best Thing I’ve Heard This Week: The Big Big Mess (06/08/13)

14 Jun

Last Saturday, The Big Big Mess celebrated its two-year anniversary. Over the course of the past couple of years, this Akron, OH readings series has hosted local, regional, and national writers, such as Mary Biddinger, Matt Hart, Nate Pritts, Cathy Wagner, Adam Clay, Zachary Schomburg, and Heather Christle.

At their most recent event, out-of-town poets from Albany, Atlanta, Chicago, and Louisville converged on Northeast Ohio for a terrific reading. Check out the videos below for highlights.

Sean Patrick Hill reads his poem “1972“:

James Belflower performs an excerpt from his book The Posture of Contour:

Daniela Olszewska reads her poem “Frontier with Fancy Spurs“:

Bruce Covey reads his poem “Foreign Objects“:

The Big Big Mess’ next reading will be on 05 July. They will host The Line Assembly Tour, featuring S.E. Smith and others.

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The Big Big Mess (05/10/13): Zeller, Alessandrelli, & Hall

14 May

On Friday 10 May, Corey Zeller, Jeff Alessandrelli, and Joe Hall descended upon Akron, OH and read their poems for The Big Big Mess Reading Series. Below are a few videos from the event:

Corey Zeller reads from his recently released full-length Man Vs. Sky (Yes Yes Books, 2013):

Jeff Alessandrelli reads from recently released chapbook People are Places are Places are People (Imaginary Friend Press, 2013):

Joe Hall reads from his recently released full-length Devotional Poems (Black Ocean, 2013):

RCNC Reading (04/23/13): Pope, Krutel, Shaheen, & Adcox

30 Apr

On Tuesday, April 23 in Akron, OH, Glenn Shaheen and James Tadd Adcox rolled through town for their recent Great Lakes region book tour. The writers teamed up with the local poets and co-hosts of The Big Big Mess Reading Series, Alexis Pope and Mike Krutel. Hosted by the artists that run Rubber City Noise Cave, all four readers put on lively performances, excerpts of which can be found below.

Here is Alexis Pope reading her poem “I Think I Would Die”:

Here is Mike Krutel reading his poem “Physical Cliff”:

Here is Glenn Shaheen reading his poem “Predatory”:

And, finally, here is James Tadd Adcox reading from his “Scientic Method” series:

The Chapbooks of Jeff Alessandrelli

22 Apr
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I met Jeff Alessandrelli in the autumn of 2008; but it wasn’t until winter/spring of 2009, when both of us enrolled in a poetic forms course at University of Nebraska, that we became close friends. After a few conversations, I learned that we shared similar poetic interests, listened to a lot of the same music, both owned dogs, and enjoyed drinking shitty beer until the wee hours of the morning, amongst other things. When you’re stuck a cornfield for nearly five years, you’re lucky to find someone with the same malformed interests.

Now that I live in Cleveland, OH and Jeff in Portland, OR, we don’t get to see each other as often as before; but every couple of months, I’ll receive a package from him that contains a new chapbook. Yes, Alessandrelli has been a bit of a chapbook machine during the last 14 months, coming out with three terrific collections.

Poor Claudia published the first of these chapbooks and released it at the 2012 AWP in Chicago, IL. Titled Don’t Let Me Forget to Feed the Sharks (which I’ve written about before, elsewhere), the book contains one of my favorite Alessandrelli poems, “Spring in the New Year.” It reads in its entirety:

Partial inventory of all items left dripping in the kitchen: one faucet, two knives. According to the fancy new guidebook I bought, you don’t go crazy all by yourself. Out of some freshly sealed envelope of darkness, every morning we have to invent the sun in order to see it, have to invent the sky’s cherry-blue backdrop in order to witness the sun’s milky light. Eventually there comes a point, though, when our inventions fail us: patentless, faulty, we wake up in some vaguely familiar pitch black. Yesterday was different we think, without entirely understanding how or why. But now it is the first day of spring and—reverent—we take the time to remember. Today is the first day of spring. Half-weighted flashlights aimed and ready, we ceaselessly pray that we will never ever have less. (21)

The cherry on top of this book, so to speak, is the artifact itself. Poor Claudia has done a fine job creating some amazing books, and this collection is no exception. If you’re unfamiliar with their product, I suggest heading over to their site and purchasing something.

For this year’s AWP in Boston, the relatively new Imaginary Friend Press released Alessandrelli’s People are Places are Places are People. While the artifact is a bit more in line with a no frills D.I.Y. aesthetic (as opposed to Poor Claudia’s more artisan approach), the collection contains some of Alessandrelli’s strongest poems. Two of my favorites are the opener, “Understanding Marcel Duchamp,” which reads:

One morning—I’m not sure why, maybe some type of lack or definition of half-tawdry want—I woke up, saw my neighbor’s bike lying in his driveway and just beat the shit out of it, just pummeled and crumbled and wracked and irrevocably dismantled it until what it was couldn’t even be called “bike” anymore; it was something else entirely. Then I went to work. When I got home that night my neighbor’s driveway was empty, his garage closed. The bike was gone, all its recognizable parts absent, vanished, shaped into new and heretofore incalculable realities. (1)

And two poems later, “Understanding Mina Loy (Everything, Everything, Everything)”:

I will refrain from discussing
the role of the lover.

Always burn the sheets
after you fuck in them. (4)

In the Elisa Gabbert-penned introduction to the collection, we’re told that an Alessendrelli poem is like “a place where you can know something but not believe, and vice versa; a place where understanding is not deeper knowledge but an alternative kind of access.” Or, as Gabbert, states later, these poems do “not tell us what [the poet] know, but to find out” something about ourselves while reading them. Indeed, when reading these poems, we enter into a process of discovery with the poet.

And just this month, the newly minted Both Books released a third Alessandrelli chapbook: A Lover’s History of Nevada. In this collection, the poet (a Reno, NV native) creates a liminal space filed with poetry, fiction, and historical non-fiction collaged into an off-beat guide to the Silver State. Take, for instance, the chapbook’s first piece:

Upon birth we slap the cheeks of every infant in Nevada until they bleed. To make sure he wasn’t born a wizard. To make sure she wasn’t born a witch. The old saying Go Fuck Your Soul means little in Nevada: forks weren’t introduced to our citizens until the mid-80’s, sandals didn’t arrive until just after the new millennium. In Nevada Y2K was a water rat that gnawed out the side of its cage and died quietly. A red sports car without wheels. The Humboldt River has no actual outlet to the ocean; it simply sinks into the ground, feeding a massive underground aquifer. The largest single public works project in the history of the nation, Hoover Dam contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete. In Nevada. How the bike tires and automobile tires ravish and splendor the pavement, the concrete, the desert sands as they make their every way to Burning Man, the largest annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance the whole world over. We are a state of grievous angels, each of us ceaselessly attempting to burn our wings for nothing but the sheer sake of spectacle. You go first. Wait for me. (1)

The collection proceeds in similar fashion and, as Alexis Orgera writes of the book, creates an “amalgam of factoid, mythos, and rhythm” that “pays homage to [the poet’s] home state, exploring its landscape and the relationships therein through various states of being.”

Alessandrelli’s full-length collection The Last Time Will Be The First Time, will be published by Burnside Books later this year. If you live in or around Ohio, you’ll be able to catch Alessandrelli read at The Big Big Mess in Akron, OH on May 10 or in Columbus, OH on May 11 at North High Brewing.

Dossiers: Poetry & Ohio, Frank Giampietro

9 Apr

Frank Giampietro moved to Ohio last summer to become the interim director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. He is the author of Begin Anywhere (Alice James Books, 2008) and co-author of Spandrel (Small Craft Advisory Press 2011) with Denise Bookwalter and Book O’ Tondos (The Painters Left, 2010) with Megan Marlatt. In the below video, he reads a new poem, titled “Whitman’s Brain,” at The Big Big Mess Reading Series on 09 November 2012:


Giampietro also read recently for the Poets of Ohio reading series on 21 March 2013. For the series, participating poets were asked to write brief thoughts on the state of Ohio and/or how they conceive of the relationship between poetry and Ohio. As a relative newcomer to the state, Giampietro responded with the following list:

1. Hello, Toledo, Ohio!
That’s hilarious.

2. In Maine they say, “You must be from away.”
In Cleveland they don’t say anything.

3. Like Jesus, Cleveland, in you there is no north or south—just east, west, and Akron.

4. So there’s a bar on every corner in Lakewood? Yes—No. No but yes.

5. How many lonely, dog walking, single people living on one Lake Avenue is too many lonely, dog walking, single people living on one Lake Avenue?

6. If Seattle, Washington is a big city built on tiny bones, then Cleveland is a very, very, sexy Elizabeth Bishop, especially if you consider EB’s relatively small oeuvre as congruous symbol of Cleveland’s population density.

7. Once, he saw a woman walking down Euclid Avenue loudly repeating the following question: “What is wrong with the people in Cleveland?”

8. The worst thing about being destitute in any middle American city is that no one will look you in the eyes. So I’ve heard (while looking away).

9. There were so many dead fish, various sizes of dead fish on the Lake Erie shore on March 23rd, I found some kissing.

10. Hey. Let’s dump our waste into this vast but shallow lake and then get our drinking water from it!

11. If the world comes to an end and humans are to blame, it won’t be Ohio’s fault.

12. Question: What’s America like, Ohio?

Answer: Long, semi-incredulous / slightly bored sigh.

13. Hey, I’m one of the wealthiest people in the whole wide world, but my heart has gone bad (as all hearts do). Can you help me America Can you help me Ohio? Sure. Just come on over to Cleveland.

14. Did you spill coffee on your sweatshirt or is that the outline of Ohio?

15. Burn, burning river.
Die, dead man’s curve.
Just kidding.
You’re both actually very cute.

16. Hey, Cleveland Clinic. You getting all this on camera? Where’s your remote controlled medicine cart taking those meds?

17. So where did you eventually end up happily living out the rest of your life, Francois?

18. Dear Hart Crane, Sorry your monument and park is kind of a mess.

Hearts[sic],
Cleveland.

The final readers for the Poets of Ohio reading series will be Sarah Gridley (04/18). For more information, please check out the series’ Facebook page.