Poetry without Pretension

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WAVEMACHINE is a series of poetry readings arranged by David Gorin, a current Yale graduate student in English. This reading, the twelfth in the series, featured poet Anthony Madrid and also Gorin himself, both of whom read mainly from their own recent works. The event was held in Gorin’s apartment on Chapel Street, and given my expectations of chilly sterility—I had been imagining a lecture hall with creaky metal seats, linoleum tiles and florescent lighting—the cozy setting was refreshing. Gorin’s apartment has French doors that open into the bedroom, walls full of perfectly disorganized books, saran wrap over all of the windows (I didn’t ask) and a monstrous American flag that covers an entire wall. A mellow Spotify playlist (at one point, a friend and I were asked to keep the Justin Timberlake forthcoming) and beer, cider and red wine for the over twenty-one attendees infused the room with a relaxed tone that persisted through the reading.

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan ’17, one of Gorin’s current English 120 students, credited part of the reading’s success to its comfortable environment. “The event seemed conducive to powerful performances because the environment felt very supportive and community-based,” she explained. She’s right: the whole crowd, which included both first-time attendees and veterans, made efforts to be inclusive. At seven, the event’s reported start time, a group of ten mingled quietly in Gorin’s living room. During the hour until eight, when the reading began in earnest, attendance tripled.

Gorin, lit by a sole hanging lamp, began the reading with an introduction of Anthony Madrid before launching into his own work. His poems (all excellent) were largely satirical. He started off with everyone’s favorite target—Yale—mocking the Ivy Ode (a senior poetry contest) only to read the poem with which he had won it. He then moved on to an amusing poetic parody of a classic Chief Ronnell A. Higgins email, and then a poem imitating a critique from a pretentious art professor. He concluded with a series of humorous poems entitled “Dust Jackets.” These poems document the career of the fictional but prolific poet Brian (no last name necessary) through the imagined dust jackets on each of his volumes of poetry. Lines like “Meant by Brian as a trilogy to be read in the dark where we inevitably find ourselves” had the entire audience laughing, as Gorin somehow managed to effectively mock the pretentious attitudes of many poets and critics even all the while conducting a poetry reading himself.

Anthony Madrid took Gorin’s place as he finished and began to read from his 2012 book of poetry, I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say. Madrid’s poetry is eccentric and hilarious—“Well, cock-a-doodle-doo, Sacajawea! Fuss factor fifty, and you coulda got us all killed.” It was not a reading so much as a performance: his persona played as much a role as the text. His poems spoke about love and aging, men and women, and occasionally included lines in German (“Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand, wer ist die schönste im ganzen Land?”), a language he claims not to understand. Madrid’s personality fully saturated the room, and the intimate setting—in which admirers could introduce themselves to him immediately following the reading—only added to the pleasantness of the atmosphere.

It was poetry reading without pretension, where applause and easy laughter replaced snaps, and audience enjoyment was paramount. WAVEMACHINE offers a calm and communal atmosphere in which visitors are encouraged to mingle freely and appreciate the written word.

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