:: Buzzwords

Tao Lin or Aphex Twin?

Simon DeMontford writes:

478993671_a078cda8a0_m.jpgThe Offbeat Generation took a surreal turn in New York City this Sunday when Tao Lin (author of You Are A Little Bit Happier Than I Am, and the upcoming eeeee eee eeee / Bed) and Tony O’Neill (Digging the Vein, Seizure Wet Dreams) read at a Russian Tea House on the Lower East Side. In an area where empty crack vials compete for space with expensive boutiques people are used to the unusual, but even in this gentrifying area of Alphabet City these two poets made an impression.

Chaos rules the day as a man in a bear suit claiming to be Tao Lin appeared alongside Tony O’Neill, only to be told by the venue that the reading wasn’t happening. Faced with a talking bear and a severely hung over O’Neill, who told me he hadn’t slept since Friday, the bar staff relented and turned the teahouse over.

3:AM author Dan Tracey was also in attendance, having made the trip from Connecticut to see the event.

The event spilled out into the street as the Tao–bear went out and accosted members of the general public, by doing jumping jacks, or looking dejectedly at his oversized bear feet. Meanwhile, O’Neill was shilling for business, alternately promising “cutting-edge poetry” and “a dancing alcoholic bear”.

The Tao-bear sprinted to the gym next door, and managed a few moments on the treadmill, and some nifty kung fu moves before being ejected by agitated meatheads.

The reading itself began. O’Neill introduced Tao Lin, who took to the stage and read a selection of poetry. His surreal poems, stripped to their linguistic bones and juxtaposing the surreal with the ordinary had an extra resonance amid a room filled with confused tourists. A small child was running around the venue, excitedly touching the bear, and collecting its poems as it tossed them to the ground after reading. I later discovered this was O’Neill’s daughter.

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The Tao-Bear read (among others) “Some of the happiest moments of my life occur on AOL Instant messenger” which could conceivably be a “Howl” for the Internet generation.

Then O’Neill took to the stage and read two pieces from Seizure Wet Dreams. The first story was set in O’Neill’s usual territory of heroin addicts and their suppliers, but was mixed with a kind of magical sensibility: heroin was purified by chanting prayers in Spanish while holding fresh eggs over the drugs, unpaid debts were sorted out with the intervention of “Mojimbo, God of Junk Pushers”. There were as many references to votive candles and Latin American magic rituals as to syringes and spoons. He finished with a poem about the birth of his daughter, which showed a side of O’Neill’s work that this reviewer had yet to see until now: tender, lyrical, affecting.

O’Neill’s daughter then took the stage as the Tao-bear played piano, reciting a free form poem about Hello Kitty and crocodiles which wasn’t bad for a 3-year-old, and received a warm round of applause. As the Tao-bear left the venue, with a cameraman in pursuit, Dan and Tony could be overheard at the bar reminiscing about methadone clinics.

I got copies of both Seizure Wet Dreams and You Are A Little Bit Happier Than I Am. Poetry readings are usually pretty dull affairs, and I’m glad to say that this one broke the mold.

First posted: Monday, April 30th, 2007.

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  1. Thank you guys, Tao and Tony, for the New York hospitality. Maybe it’s ok to live there-instead of just vist!?
    Dan Tracy in Connecticut.

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