Ron Kolm

Hal Sirowitz: The People’s Poet — essay by Ron Kolm

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Hal Sirowitz:

 

The People’s Poet

 

by Ron Kolm

 

Author photo © Copyright 2010 Kim Soles

Author photo © Copyright 2010 Kim Soles

I met Hal in 1980 when he was emceeing the poetry readings at St. Clement’s Church on 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen. Hal did a terrific job in mixing the knowns and the unknowns, and then making the unknowns feel like they could end up in the pantheon of New York City poets. At the conclusion of each event Sirowitz would read some of his own work. The first time I heard him I was instantly hooked. His poems were short and funny, and in them Hal was able to project himself through his mother’s eyes. To her everything was a potential threat — especially to her family’s belonging to the mostly assimilated Jewish middle-class.  Religion still played a part in his work, but almost more as a set of superstitions, than as a link to the ineffable — and it was more through the sensibility of the father than the mother. Hal’s poems were also incredibly concrete — they were filled with real things; real cats, real girlfriends, real condoms. And many of them began with the mantra, “Mother said…”
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Roberto Bolano, an Appreciation by Ron Kolm

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Roberto Bolano, an Appreciation

 

by Ron Kolm

 
 

So you’re a young poet, and you’ve just heard a pretty good reading at Gathering of Tribes on Third Street, and you had yourself a beer or two during the event, which you didn’t pay for because you’re broke and the amount of rent you pay for your East Village walk-up is exorbitant, but you mean well, you’re not a bad person; you’ll drop some extra change in the hat next time you come. And now you find yourself outside on the sidewalk with a gaggle of your friends, who are also poets, trying to decide which local watering hole you should all head for. Let’s say you end up at the Parkside Lounge on East Houston Street, watching your buddies shoot pool — all the while caging drinks from them; obviously you’re still without cash, and the best strategy here is to get one of the folks who’s better off at this moment to buy a pitcher – and you manage to pull that off – heck, maybe you can get him to buy two pitchers; it’s worth considering. And then your friends who have been shooting pool come back to the table; they’ve all lost to the regulars who have better chops, poolwise.

And now everyone crowds around the table, talking a little too loudly, and getting all excited as the conversation turns, as it always does, to ‘what are you reading? Who are your favorite authors? Who do you think will last?’ And all the usual names come up; Faulkner, Woolf, Joyce; because you and your gang all are college grads; hell, most of you took creative writing courses in school, and there’s even an MFA or two among the group. So someone says, “Umm, I don’t know, maybe Jonathan Franzen?” And everyone shrugs uneasily and looks down at their beers. And then someone else posits, “What about Johathan Safran Foer?” – followed by more uncomfortable shuffling around, as someone to your left replies, “Maybe not so much…”

And then you speak up, the beer making you bold: “Roberto Bolano; he’s the real thing! He’ll last!” And this is followed by a brief silence, some murmurs of assent, and then someone, and there’s always someone, asks, “Who’s that? Never heard of him.” And then you break into your Bolano routine.

“Ah,” you say, “He’s a Kerouac/Joyce smoothie! He was as smart as Joyce, and he travelled as widely and worked enough dead-beat jobs to rival Mister Kerouac!”
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Hand Jobs, a poem by Ron Kolm

Posted on by Ron Kolm Posted in Audio, Daily, Poetry, Ron Kolm, Writing | Leave a comment

Hand Jobs

It’s my first day on the job –
A factory making steel drums.
“You’ll be rubbing acid on new
Welds to seal them,” the foreman
Tells me. “Here’s some rubber
Gloves,” he says, throwing me a pair.
“You don’t want to get that shit
On your skin.” I put them on
And feel air on my hands.
The tips of the gloves are
Worn away, and I wiggle
My fingers for his benefit.
“Sorry, dude, it’s all we got,”
He says, as I give them back
And head out to the parking lot
Get into my truck and smash
The dashboard with my fist.
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PEOPs Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club NYC by Ron Kolm

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