Happy Weekend, y’all!
I’ve been working this week on getting promotional materials together for this THE HEARD EVERYTHING INTERSTELLAR BOOK TOUR! Thanks to my computer-whiz son, a talented artist and photographer and all-around-awesome-grown-kid, J Hackett, this happened!
So it’s feeling real now, y’all–this poetry house concert tour. And I’m getting into the logistics of all this fun. So what’s a house concert anyway? And where did all this start?
A traditional house concert is a musical concert or performance art presented in someone’s home or apartment or a nearby small private space such as a rec room, barn, lawn, or back yard. The feel-good adjective most often heard to describe a house concert experience is intimate.
I like that word 🙂 Makes me shiver a little 🙂
While this is all exciting and new to me as a poet, house performances actually have been around a long time, across all of the arts. People have pulled a chair or some grass or shook out a blanket for centuries, to be entertained by the traveling bard in ancient Ireland, or to listen to the 16th century music performed in a chamber in a nobleman’s home (thus chamber music), on into the 19th and 20th century when the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies had their fancy friends in to hear noted artists on those thunderously grand old pipe organs.
These get-togethers weren’t confined to the wealthy. While the examples associated with the upper classes are the ones recorded in the history books, I’m sure enough to argue that the earliest performances of this kind took place much much earlier, folks gathered around fires, on porches, on break from working in the fields, where music and poetry and storytelling all gave not only comfort and entertainment, but became the beautiful and artful records of the rich lives of people who seldom make it into those same history texts. Folk music, country music, and blues music in the United States all have long histories of this kind of performance, prior to the rise of availability of recorded music.
History is filled with examples of people gathering in private homes and backyards to enjoy music and recitations, to support artists of all kinds.
House concerts have made a major resurgence in the 20th and 21st centuries, with all genres getting in on the fun. According to Wikipedia, DJ Kool Herc is credited with helping to start hip hop and rap music at a house concert at an apartment building in the South Bronx. North American punk music came to life in basements, and I’m old enough to remember and too old to tell you how many garage bands I personally sat on concrete to listen to in my own rock’n’roll coming of age in the 70s and 80s. I’ve heard some of the best music ever sitting in a lawn chair, eating potluck mac’n’cheese, and drinking from a plastic cup, having made my donation, happily grateful for the music and the company.
But historically, this wasn’t limited to music.
Time travel again back to 16th century Italy where the tradition of the salone or salon began and flourished well into the 17th and 18th centuries throughout Europe. Again, according to Wikipedia, a salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation about literature, philosophy, politics, and the arts.
These gatherings often deliberately followed Horace’s definition of the aims of—guess what? You got it!–Poetry! 🙂
Horace said the aim of Poetry was “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”). From Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia who transformed her court into the most influential cultural center of Germany in the 1700s, getting the conversation on for the likes of Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland, poet and translator of William Shakespeare to the famed French patronesses of all the arts, literary salons go way back.
Jump forward through time and the literary salon rocked on, with Mark Twain and the Bohemians of San Francisco, to Gertrude Stein’s famous Saturday gatherings in Paris, to the legendary parties of Gerald and Sara Murphy—Wait, who?
Gerald and Sara Murphy aren’t as well-remembered as their famous group of friends, but without the Murphys’ support, financial and emotional, in 1920s Paris, the greats like Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, and other shining stars of the Lost Generation may not have even made the art we’re lucky enough to still have today.
Because—and yes, I know I said this last time 🙂 — the real stars of the house concert model are the hosts, people willing to open that garden gate, invite friends, and show generous public support for the arts.
Who are these wonderfully crazy art-loving people? I call them friends 🙂 Like the generous and fabulous Murphys, Frank and MeLaina Ramos are the hosts for the inaugural Interstellar event. Aren’t they beautiful? The critic in the back is Lorenzo, and his born-to-be-famous sisters Madison and LeiLani were no doubt out ruling the world 🙂
I asked my friends if they’d be willing to host a poetry house concert to promote my new book, and they said Yes, ’cause they’re beautiful and generous like that. They were as as excited about the idea as I was! And the cool thing that’s happened since I first asked is that the events are taking on the personalities of the beautiful people hosting them, as diverse and interesting as they are themselves. That’s been some of the most fun for me! We coordinated calendars, chose dates. I suggested the potluck, hoping to create the least work, cost, or inconvenience for these kind people as I could. Then I drafted the basic invitation, sending it to my hosts to change as needed to fit their event.
We kept it simple 🙂 It looks like this:
The Heard Everything Interstellar Book Release Tour!
Dear friends, family and arts-loving neighbors –
You’re invited to a brand new kind of house concert—A Poetry Party!
Join us for good food, good drink, good company, and a poetry reading!
in our home
with Poet Mary Carroll-Hackett
to celebrate the release of her brand new collection of prose poems
The Night I Heard Everything, from FutureCycle Press
with an optional potluck dinner starting at 6 pm.
If you are coming to the dinner, please bring a dish, dessert or drink to share.
What else: The suggested donation (we’re all pitching in to pay the artist!) is $15. Each guest receives a personally inscribed copy of the poet’s book.
We hope you can join us.
How many people you invite will be determined by the space, so build an invitation list with your hosts. And don’t limit your invitations to literary types. I’m not a musician, but I love and support musicians. And I love the idea of sharing poetry with people who might not seek it out, and learning from those same people. I mean…that’s where poems come from, right–all kinds of people living all kinds of lives out in the world? Uncle Walt and Auntie Gertrude threw those doors open for all types, and our recent tendency to forget that may very well be one of the biggest obstacles leading to all those Poetry is dead conversations, which, by the way, in my opinion, is hogwash. It ain’t dead a bit. But it could be argued that its disappearance into the academy has been something like a much-too-long-drug-induced coma.
Time to wake it up? Whatcha think?
Mmmhmmm, poets 🙂 I can hear those gears turning even from here 🙂 Would my friends–? Who could I ask–? I wonder if they might–?
Do it! Ask! That box of beautiful books that you worked on so hard and for so long sitting there on your floor isn’t going to magically jump up and take themselves into the world 🙂 But your loving friends just might help you make it happen.
‘Cause yeahhh, one thing I have happily learned over the years–artists hang out with the coolest people 🙂 Like you.
Later and love from here, you rocking creative types,
Links for the cool people mentioned here 🙂
J Hackett’s Fabulous Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/completedrivel/
Daniel Bailey’s Awesome Music http://www.danielbaileymusic.com/
MeLaina Ramos, brilliant young poet, bloggin at PostPartum Poet: https://postpartumpoet.wordpress.com/
Frank Ramos Landscaping/Lawncare Business, one Fabulous Daddy keepin it all together:
Next up: About that Donation—You want me to pay for what????!!!