Keefe writes that he wants to meet up to talk about something. Last time we talked I recorded it. This is about something else. He wants me to collaborate on something with him. Last time he asked I found myself on stage at Constellation painting him and a couple other guys improvising. He doesn’t want art this time; he wants words.
We sit in his practice space on Lake Street talking it out. It’s a little daunting. Three brass instruments and my voice reading. No way I can compete. A saxophone is in the same tonal range as the human voice but far louder. Even with a mic I’d have no chance. Plus: what will I read?
As we sit there I try to picture it in my mind. The venue is Comfort Station. A refurbished former public park bathroom in Logan Square that is now an art space. There are grants given to stage exhibits and performances. Ours will be part of a series called Comfort Music. These euphemisms remind me of terms like ‘Joy Division’.
Whatever my misgivings, I say yes. It’s so rare that anyone invites me to do anything that I can’t refuse for the novelty if nothing else. I’m not a performer and never will be. But a professional musician is asking me to share his stage. It’s flattering and pushes me out of my comfort zone. Worth doing for that reason even if it falls flat on its face. Keefe says it’s an experiment. If it works we can do more.
In the following weeks I keep rolling it around in my mind. I choose a bunch of writing that might work. No through-line or narrative. Maybe not even connected at all. I’m on more solid ground with the visual part. I tell Keefe I’ll design a poster. I make a stencil of the text, then apply the words with markers, pencils, charcoal, and paint to different colored paper, to lithographs and to collages. I make twenty unique pictures, hang up five around Bridgeport and Pilsen and give the other fifteen to Keefe to share with Jeb and Aram.
If you want to see what we come up with, show up on 4/20. No jazz cigarettes but I promise to read at least one poem in Russian.
Listen to my talk with Chicago writer Jasmon Drain and/or Mallory and I discussing both versions of The Fly. When you’re done with those maybe read my review of Catherine Lacey’s The Biography of X.