Last night James and I attended an excellent reading hosted by the Unterberg Poetry Center at Manhattan's venerable 92nd Street Y. The occasion: a tribute to past Center directors Grace Schulman, Karl Kirchwey, and David Yezzi, all poets themselves.
I always enjoy David Yezzi's work, but I am not an impartial judge as I am friendly with David through his work at The New Criterion. David read a few newer poems that benefited from a Larkian disenchantment and wry humor. David read these in a laconic, everyday voice that really allowed the poems' true meanings to be revealed. Mr. Kirchwey's work was a delight: erudite without ever being precious or smug. He displays a sense of humor but is never ironic. He has a great command of rhyme, and language interests him intensely. He said he is now obsessed with translating Verlaine; from what I can tell he also knows Greek and Latin, among other tongues. I bought his new book, The Happiness of this World, and will look forward to reading it.
Many poetry world luminaries, such as Marie Ponsot, Veejay Seshadri, and Alice Quinn attended the reading. A lovely spread followed, including "Hostess" desserts: coconut snowballs and chocolate cupcakes. To my surprise, the Y even made cookies with the readers' names printed on them. The cookies were presented as little gifts on trays. As a woman and I admired them, she noted, "And I thought the Y was having money troubles!"
The one off-note of the evening was the reading by Grace Schulman. I am not familiar with her poetry, though I do own the Marianne Moore book she edited. Never liked Moore's antics. Sorry. But I came with an open mind to appreciate Schulman. Unfortunately, her voice croaked and cracked and made it very hard to absorb her poems, which did nothing for me. Yes, I have applied for the Discovery/"The Nation" young poets' prize that she oversees and I haven't won, but I am an adult and do not bear her a grudge. Many of my fellow, non-poet listeners agreed with my assessment of her performance.