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This report is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

Letter from New York J.D. McClatchy
In the beginning were readings. Americans are a natural and an eager audience. Sermon, Atheneum, or Chautauqua; Dickens and Twain on the circuit, or Wilde in Leadville; Eliot and Frost reciting their poems in packed football stadiums. Dylan Thomas, for his sins, is often credited with reviving the poetry reading as a 'event', and the social upheavals of the 1960s with eclipsing them as moonshine. Twenty years ago, the university and the coffee house were the poet's preserve. But no longer. Today, readings are big business.

The NYC Poetry Calendar is a folio-sized broadsheet, issued monthly and listing each day's reading or seminar or workshop or benefit or radio confab. The effect can be dizzying. On a given night one is likely to be offered the choice of Japanese poets uptown, French novelists downtown, and in between the likes of Voznesensky or James Dickey, a panel discussion of 'the LANGUAGE poets', a meeting of the Shelley Society, a fundraiser for Nicaragua, and more poetry readings - by bemedalled leviathans and small fry alike - and wine-and-cheese receptions than anyone can digest. This season, there are even readings on Broadway. A series to benefit the PEN American Center - its 774 subscriptions sold out, at $1000 a shot, before it was even announced - offers eight readings, each with a pair of . . . well, a pair of celebrities. Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal will share the stage next week. We've already had Saul Bellow and Eudora Welty, Susan ...


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