Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

While I was in Chicago, Beau and I went to see Too Much Light Make the Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB), a show by the Neo-Futurist collective. TMLMTBGB is a randomized spectacle of “30 plays in 60 minutes” and it was pretty fantastic. A cast of six actors act out a 30 short-shorts that feature audience participation, stand-up comedy, dancing and singing, monologues, dramatic monologues. Some are very funny. Some are poignant or sad. Collectively, it was a crazy fun show.

Audience members are made to shout out numbers printed out and hung over the stage. On the back of the number is the title of the play. A cast member jumps up to grab the number, announces the title, and then the cast quickly take their places to begin. The play concludes when a cast member says, “Curtain,” cuing the audience to shout out more numbers and start the show. All the while, a darkroom clock ticks backward from 60 and the cast and audience are tasked with getting through all the plays…

Of the ones we saw there were many standouts. “Revenge of a Theatre Major” was a one-liner in which a cast member stood there and, in the face of her now-laid off colleagues from college, “Well, I’ve still got my job!” “Neo-Gay PSA” began with an apology from the cast to “all the gay people in the world” who had been mistreated by America. Gays were asked to stand up to be recognized. Festive music began to play and cast members ran around hugging all the gays and saying, “You’re gay–that’s great!” Someone brought out a tray of candy and snacks and gave them to the gays. They wheeled out a cooler full of soda and water and offered it to us. You know, it actually did feel kind of nice to be gay for a minute.

Another good one was “Insult/Dance/Repeat,” in which one cast member asked an audience member questions like, “Are you a mother?” And when an affirmative answer was given, two cast members ran out while the lights flashed, one sitting on the shoulders of the other, shrieking like banshees, and proceeded to shout something really atrocious at the audience member. In this case, it was something I’m not even comfortable typing out, but I almost peed my pants it was so awful and funny. This went on for some time.

The Neo-Futurists are “committed to randomness.” To pay for the show, you pay $9, plus the roll of a die. (So, $10-15 depending.) The shows are run in a random order, and at the end of the show on Fridays and Sundays, one audience member is asked to roll a die. The total of the two rolls (Fri and Sun) is the number of plays the cast has to write and learn by the next week (2-12). After three weeks, you can potentially almost an entirely fresh show with that kind of schedule.

AWP Report, in Brief

I think I must be the only person who does AWP right. I didn’t see anyone I dislike, I didn’t overspend in the bookfair, I wasn’t bored by attending the wrong panels, and I didn’t get to spend enough time with any of the people I do like.

If anything, AWP only served to remind me that I wish there were more hours in the day. Also, I wish there were more seats in the hotel restaurants in which to spend those hours while talking to the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, working with, learning from, etc.

Visit Me at AWP

Where you can find me:

1. My room, stealing a moment (call for instructions).
2. The Writer’s Center/Poet Lore booth, #238.
3. “Poetry’s Electronic Communities” panel chatting about LOCUSPOINT, Thursday at 4:30 – 5:45 pm, Private Dining Room 2, 3rd floor.
4. Watching the ASU/Piper Center for Creative Writing booth from afar, trying to gauge if they “miss me” enough or not.
5. Resuscitating a cocktail (at appropriate times of day only).
6. Resuscitating a coffee (anytime).
7. At the Court Green/Fence reading event on Thursday at 6:30 pm, Film Row Cinema at Columbia College Chicago.
8. In Alison Stine’s hotel room for her book party.
9. Checking my email in a dark corner to see how Arden is doing with her lovely pet sitter, whom Arden may like more than she does me.

The Poetics of Never Forgetting

I forget things. I forget things quick and often, or better to say, perhaps, that I lose track of things, lose track of memories and experiences and my childhood. Sometimes I make lists. To do lists, shopping lists, don’t-forget-about-this lists. My house is strewn with old lists, lists clutter my desk. Sometimes I forget why I started the list, or whether I completed it.

Things I never forget: faces. I’ll always recognize you—at the very least, that I’ve met you or sometimes even just seen you—and most of the time I’ll be able to tell you where and when it was. Some people find this off-putting. Things I generally don’t forget: names. If I know your name, it will stick with me.

But the rest of the world, so transient to me, must be kept somewhere. I put these things in poems, things I see other people forgetting or losing track of, things that to me are critical and essential.

I wrote about the rise of the AIDS crisis because we can’t forget what it costs us. We can’t forget what was lost/taken/discarded. It’s important to me. I put it in poems. I wrote a book about my ex-boyfriend’s suicide because I didn’t want to forget him, forget how it felt to lose something I thought was already gone. I was wrong. I’m writing a book about losing other people: another man, a boy in Wyoming. I don’t want to forget how whole things once were. I think the world is a constantly winnowing place: each day you have less but remember more.

I want to remember how it felt to fall in love with him, slowly, by voice. I put it into poems. I want him to remember this too, so I share the never-forgetting.

This is all I can do. I don’t write a history, I write subjectivity. I want to recapture things and keep them close to me.

It’s a simple thing. You don’t have to do this in your poems. I don’t think this is the right way for everyone. But how easy it is, now, to remember the things that used to escape me. There they are, right there. And I’ve learned now how to live in the past and the present without losing myself.