Chicago has this thing, the “live lit” scene. Live, literature; stories and essays and poems performed for an audience. There was a long time when this genre didn’t have a name. I don’t know how this name came around, but here we are. Live. Lit.
I’m mostly a writer for the page. I once thought that if only I practiced enough, I’d get really good at performing. This is not true. I can’t get better at whistling, either. I always sound like a teapot. But I like it. From the stage or the audience, I like it. Not being alone with words feels healthy.
The venerable Mike Doughty says it well in the NY Times this week.
The most challenging Borgesian map-versus-territory aspect in playing these songs isn’t technical, but — if you’ll allow me to be a hippie here — spiritual. A live performance’s intensity of focus — both mine and the audience’s — can’t be replicated in rehearsal. There’s a communal mind to be navigated. What’s gratifying to me about playing to an audience isn’t the applause; it’s the oceanic feeling of fused consciousness. You can’t rehearse that — it’d be like rehearsing the Himalayas.
In other news of literature and metaphorical geography, this poem of Scoddy’s is perfect with a Saturday morning cup of coffee:
contemporary Mexican poetry
an unexpected gift:
someone found a book in the street
and passed it to me.
I guess I am known as a reader of
so contemporary Mexican poetry
falls into my lap
and makes me consider
the nature of such events
if it’s your book,
please give me a little time to digest it,
before you whistle it back home