Monday, April 20, 2009

Everybody Loves Ted

Musings for April 9, 2009

Everybody Loves Ted

Ted Pope is nuts, and everybody loves him. Ted Pope is legendary, and everybody loves him. Ted Pope is a remarkable poet, and everybody loves him. Ted Pope is an unforgettable performer, and everybody loves him. Ted Pope can be maddening (especially for those who need him to submit to the demands of time and space), and still everybody loves him.
I’ve told my students on more than one occasion that my favorite poet to see live is Ted Pope. Ted Pope has stood me up for the Poetry Hickory Open Mic three times, but I still scheduled him as a featured writer at Poetry Hickory for April 14. I’m no more resistant to his charm and talent than all the others who love him. I’ve told my students, “If you only make to one Poetry Hickory all year, make it the one where Ted Pope is reading.”
Ted Pope’s readings are entertaining, enigmatic, titillating, and cathartic. They are, in the truest sense of the word, an “event.” The best reaction I’ve heard to Ted Pope’s readings was simply, “That was brilliant!” The worst was, “What the *!#@ was that?” In both cases, however, they were still talking about the reading weeks later. Ted Pope is an electronic installation and multi-media performance poet from Morganton. He is the author of the collection rEdlipsticK, and a previous winner of the NC Performance Poetry Championships.
Pope has been described as a “one-of-a-kind energy vortex;” as a “hybrid combination of wise old sage and someone teetering on the edge;” and as “one of the first great apocalyptic poets.”
His work has been described as a “combination of Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs” and as a “surreal yet immensely relevant symbolic look at our culture and mythology.” All of that sounds like so much promotional hyperbole. In fact, however, I’m not sure it does Pope or his work justice. Nor does the poem I’m including here do justice to Pope’s genius. To appreciate it fully one would need to hear/see it performed by Pope himself.

Obituary for a Poetry Reading

The Poetry Reading is survived by:
the poet.
the poets family.
the poet's friends many of whom are also poets.
poets who aren't friends of the poet but who go to poetry readings with the unspoken expectation that the favor be returned.
young poets who pretend even to themselves that they saw sumthing inspiring so they don't have to face what a waste the evening was.
one of the poets in attendance claimed that the Poetry Reading could have been saved if they had moved it full speed ahead to the lobby of a Tire Store.
the poet took a seashell from inside his coat and placed it next to his ear.
he spread his fingers and stuck his thumb to the side of his head so that it looked like antlers or antennae.
stood like that for a moment and took his hand down and put the shell away.
then he continued to explain. people are tired of having their poetry interrupted by cappuccino machines. people want poetry that is interrupted by pneumatic drills. they want compression and rattling of chains. people waiting in Tire Store lobbies want poetry. Even if it just allows them the chance to tell people how much they hated it. even if they act embarrassed for the poet. or become angry and walk out. or throw you out. but they want it. if we had only taken the Poetry Reading immediately to a Tire Store the people in the lobby would have saved it. we wanted to save the Poetry Reading ourselves but we were just a bunch of poets and the best we could do was sit with it. hold its hand and watch it breathe its last.
ok? said the poet.

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