For poets it’s always a hard day’s night

By By Adam Fifield

By Adam Fifield

There’s nothing like shouting matches or wild hand flailing to spice up a literary reading. In fact, an all-out brawl would probably go a long way in revitalizing the literary arts in America.

Not since 1977, when Italian students rioted at a reading of John Cage’s “Empty Words Part IV,” has there been a true art riot. Cage’s three-hour performance, which can be purchased in CD-form on Yahoo, culminates in a roar of protest from the audience, with some students grabbing the microphone at times and shouting angry Italian epithets.

Another famous art riot occurred in 1913, when the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Rite of Spring,” incited fist fights, chaos and the eventual arrival of Paris police to enforce order. Thomas Kelly, who recently reported the riot for NPR as one of the “milestones of the century,” stated, “The pagans on-stage made pagans of the audience.”

Although fist-fights at this month’s “Working Dog” literary reading might be taking it too far, the reading will only succeed if the audience is made into pagans. That is the responsibility of the graduate students of poetry and prose — and this article is a direct challenge to the creative writing community at the U: make it the first real art riot of the 21st century.

Every month on seemingly random Thursdays, the U’s English department hosts “The Working Dog,” featuring graduate students in creative writing. This month’s reading, held tonight at 7 p.m. at the Art Barn (1325 E. 100 South), is the special “Scary Rapid Fire” event. Basically, no one knows exactly what will happen, but each grad student will read short blurbs of his or her work, preferably the scary stuff, for no more than five minutes. If they succeed, the reading will be energetic, raucous and unpredictably glorious. (Or, shall I say, riotous?)

“The Scary Dog is historically one of the funnest, funniest, scariest readings of the year, and all are encouraged to show up,” said Derek Henderson, graduate student in creative writing and one of the coordinators of the reading series.

The reading will include “upwards of a baker’s dozen of graduate student readers reading writings that are by turns scary, funny, sexy or scary-funny-sexy, or whatever floats their boat (but floats it in a frighteningly funny way…think ‘Titanic’ meets ‘Airplane!’),” Henderson said.

Go see what poets are doing NOW and hear graduate students from the U’s acclaimed creative writing program perform their work tonight at the Art Barn. Bring a pitchfork and be prepared to either torch the artist pagans or join them in their “scary-funny-sexy” celebration.

[email protected]