Being inserted again into a 'new' city and finding my place in the poetry scene leads me to reflect on the other communities of poets I have known. In Bolivia the poets were very much political forces, and since the society is so poor and has allot of illiteracy readings and speaking became very important. But Bolivia is a place where poetry and public intellectuals are welcomed. While I was never totally welcomed ( I worked for a major NGO and I am American) the community was very vibrant and very dynamic. Brazil was different, more like the USA but there were some great voices like Regis Bonvicino who made a difference.
Moving from Brazil to Dallas was a culture shock in many ways. The poetry community in Dallas however was very rich and very nurturing, some very fine poets live in Dallas, Jack Myers, Brian Clements, Joe Ahearn, Bruce Bond, Chris Soden, Michael Puttonan Carris and many others. Because the community is small it tends not to have the pettiness of larger places I have lived in. A major turning point in my poetic life was made there when I participated in a series of dialogues among 'synthetic'poets we even had an anti reading. Joe Ahearn has a chapbook of these type of poems. I was really challenged in Dallas and many of my current interests began there. Also the Writers Garret and Dallas Poets Community are good organizations, and now a new Journal Sentence has come out of Dallas. Some new
voices have arisen in Dallas including my friend Christine Murray who is dynamic and brings a perspective to avant garde poetics that I really respect.
Then because of work we moved to Princeton, NJ and NJ scene was the weirdest thing I have ever been involved in, a whole state trying to impress New York and Philadelphia there was one group of poets run by some young woman from Rutgers but it was less than impressive. I went to readings in Asbury Park and Hoboken that were filled with the 'wood jewelry' crowd and the Camus family of Gothic girls.
I did meet however Sina Queyras in Princeton who had a profound impact on me as a poet, she is a fine poet and critic. But as with allot of the East Coast , NJ was a community desert. Philly and New York were very dynamic places but the rivers stopped the poetry.
So now I have moved home to Chicago, and I must say that I am pleased with the poetry scene but I am also working in it more-- a fine group of poets resides at the U of C (Matthias Regan for example) another group has grown up around the 3030 reading series animated by Kerri Sonnenberg (a fine poet) and Jesse Seldis (can you say a poet who is a male Gertrude Stein). I found this group inviting and open and friendly. There is also the Danny's reading series which is excellent.
On the whole Chicago is kind of half way between a New York Feel (hyper competitive) and Dallas. The lack of a good MFA program here is a problem for poets and the lack of a poet's house, or Writer's house is also a problem-- Chicago needs a good literary organization that is avant garde poetry centered but we have time. On the whole I have been blessed with the poets I have known and know--