David Lehman Vs. Michael Cirelli.

Page Meets Stage
David Lehman vs. Michael Cirelli
The Bowery Poetry Club - 5/14/8


    David Lehman is the author of six collections of poems and teaches at The New School. He represented the page for this event. Representing the stage was Michael Cirelli, author and former student of David Lehman. The teacher-student relationship shined through their performance as they teased one another and reminisced about their past.
    Lehman begins his first poem, “It was going to snow, but then, it didn’t.” A perfect example of his “deadpan humor”, as Cirelli says. Then he moves onto a series of poems from a book called Poems In the Manner of. Included in this series was Poems In the Manner of Charles Bukowski. With this poem he pokes fun of Bukowski by pulling out typical Bukowski sterotypes like: Charles Bukowski in the manner of a chauvinist. But Lehman later reads his own poems that seem to be similar to Bukowski, such as In the Manner of A Romance Novel. In this poem he writes, “She feels fin and he tells her she will feel finer and he orders her a drink.” Or when Lehman writes that a woman’s favorite moment is when a man gets home and a man’s favorite moment is when he’s leaving. After reading that half of the crowd is silent and he says that it’s a “controversial” poem. In another poem he writes, “I hate poets that beg you to like them/because you feel sorry for them.” His humor and story like way of presenting his words are familiar with Bukowski’s.
    Micheal Cirelli reads from his books mostly but Trubadore he has committed to memory. It sounds a little like hip hop but he seems to be holding back. On stage he seems nervous, timid, or unsure. Although he was representing the stage his work seemed to be more page-based. In addition to feeling like he was holding back in his presence, his work seemed to lack moving subject matter. He reads a poem that is a story about eating veal and his dad coming and eating his veal and then ordering them both more veal. He writes another poem about the hip hop artist KRS1 sleeping under a bridge when he was young. His words don’t feel powerful like most stage artists manage to make them. It feels like he is reading from a book. “Anxiety is so first world.” He says and turns to Lehman, “Is it epigraph or epigram?” And then, “Can you epigraph yourself?” He borrows a tactic many slam poets use- slowing down the last word of a line to try to make it move you. He does this within the poem even if the last word isn’t powerful, making it carry the weight of the lines.
    During the Q and A Lehman was asked about frequently writing sestinas. He says that sometimes he just sits down to write one and other times he just has a few lines and thinks, “Oh I can write a sestina.” Lehman says he likes sestinas because they are simple and once you have the words down they take you where you want to go. Noting Cirellis ties to hip hop and academic writing the MC asks, Are you also hip hop’s spy from academia’s tower?” Cirelli responds by talking about how hip hop culture breaks down to who is and isn’t apart of the culture. He says hip hop is another form of lyrical poetry and it’s been present in his life since he was break dancing as a kid. And he discusses its relationship to slam poetry. Cirelli intentionally wrote his book in “line format” to make it more academic he says.

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