A Book Party For Ira Cohen

so anyway i get this good crowd at the cornelia street cafe friday night, the pink pony people maggie balistreri and her partner jackie sheeler have the place packed for me god bless 'em, i drink bottled water on stage and wave the around green bottle dramatically, and i tell stories and read poems for an hour and then after people don't want to leave, they're enjoying themselves too much, a big crowd standing on the edge of the street making a lot of noise, there are people eating at tables on the sidewalk even though it is november they are curious about all the poets filing out of the basement and standing around, what is this big eyed chatting; but not overly, they have their own agendas, taking advantage of the warm weather; incredible sky over new york, a thin transparent luminescent sheet of cloud lulling the world out of its newfound fearfulness.

but what i mean to say is this: after all that, i go to see ira cohen do his thing on 23rd st in manhattan, book party at a good space, called "true" and definitely a trendy place. ira is definitely on his best game, a holy rambling amiable guru just to the hip side of shtick, though complaining of a headache the crowd loves him, looking for a bottom of the ninth two out home run with every poem and more often than not, getting it.

definitely a huncke crowd, wise and weary and hip and stoned and gaunt.

typical ira cohen reading with a communal feel about it, he does a good hour long grateful dead style endless riff, holds the crowd in his hand throughout, the old wise wandering aloof photographer artist poet with his nikon slung across his breast, orange flowing robes and white flowing beard, the hip beat creamsicle apostle of experience taking the crowd with him from new york to san francisco, to the rarefied bamiyan buddhistic air, hash houses of mazar-i-sharif, trekking in kathmandu or dancing brilliantly with jane and paul bowles through the dust sunny streets of tangiers. like me, ira slept on afghani rope beds and awoke in the pre-dawn to visit the great buddha of bamiyan. "not an afghani among the terrorists," he says to me after, nodding south toward battery park and ground zero. "course not," i say. "the afghanis have more dignity than that."

all evening ira drinks double brandies in marty matz' honor. you probably know marty the 315 pound opium dreaming poet, plenty of bounce on rough edges, says howard hart, a man who speaks of the teeth of mountains. marty, a body full of alchemy and osiris and fried chicken, dreamed, hoped for, realized, marty who died this week, ira is calling for drinks and smokes and applause in memory of marty; and the goodie girls, who published ira's book and who are wearing bowler hats and who are grinning from ear to ear from their seats somewhere above the crowd, are obliging.

altogether it is a magic gathering really, people feeling easy enough with the situation to be easy with themselves, the big easy, they close their eyes and drift off with ira's words, they shout encouragement, they wander about the room aimlessly. as for me i order a double brandy too and sit with my back resting on an odd cagelike contraption, and swirl it and swirl it, and listen to ira spin his stories; the cage some kind of leather studded go-go thing, i suspect the black lit red velvet room doubles as some kind of sado-masochist dungeon or goth mecca on off evenings. in fact the atmosphere of the entire reading is laced with a barely hidden licentiousness and latent craving for immediacy and experience. though "the death head appearing in the flowers of another spring" is with us all, we are invited along as ira proclaims "the mystery of my hand stretching to candle your thighs in the tip of the night."

"what a pleasure to let the fire burn down on its own," intones ira, and we huddle close together to hear it.

then as a tribute to matz, ira reads marty's "less spiders and more porcupines would make a better world" poem - in addition to nearly all of his book akashic record, wow. "i know where rainbows go to die," he says, quoting marty's bob kaufman poem, and when he talks about marty's sparkle, his eyes sparkle too.

ira sits magetic and marvellously and full of his age on a barstool, backlit through his beard and hair on the elevated stage, concludes many of his poems in this indrawn guru manner, growling deep and low into the microphone. makes me feel like i am one of his basso mystic revelatory himalayan co-conspirators.

so many of the "next ones" of the beat generation are passing on. and ira is feeling his age, "don't get old," he warns, and winks, knocks back a double brandy like it is evening medicine, keeps on reading.

like ira says we are all a "harp of bones," and weary of it at times. yet sometimes, we may sing of it, and beautifully. on new york city nights like these, ira cohen does.