book party #1
SOMEBODY IN MY CAB ASKED ME THE OTHER DAY HOW OUR BARSTOOL POETRY BOOK PARTY AT Star Bar went. Before I could answer, my co-host Dave chimed in, “It was a huge success!”
“HUGE success?” I shot back with a laugh.
I immediately thought of the 20 people who said they were coming and never showed. Or the tour bus, with its generators humming loudly, parked a few feet away from our party. Or the bad P.A./speaker setup we had. Or the overlit patio.
“What, it wasn’t a success?” Dave asked, like his feelings had been hurt.
“No, it was great,” I answered apologetically. “It was definitely a success. But a HUGE success?”
How about this: Over 50 people showed up, most of whom contributed a title-on-a-napkin. A number of people wrote poems. Enough poems that we’re now publishing a new book of Barstool Poetry. This one’s gonna feature 50 new poems, all of them from that night.
Here’s the introduction to the latest volume:
“MORE THAN 20 YEARS AFTER I JOTTED DOWN the very first Barstool Poetry title at the S.F. Saloon in West L.A. and challenged my friend Jon Congdon to “write a poem to fit that title,” a very curious thing happened 1500 miles away in Texas.
On a balmy autumn evening in Austin — November 29, 2012, to be exact — a diverse crowd of more than 50 poetry neophytes gathered at Star Bar on West 6th Street to contribute titles and write a whole bunch of poems on cocktail napkins.
The book you’re now holding contains — for better or worse — every poem written that night.
The occasion was to celebrate the publication of Barstool Poetry (The Early Years: 1992-2000), our anthology featuring over 150 barstool poems, a project that’s been two decades in the making.
The original Barstool Poetry book features poems Jon and I wrote at a variety of SoCal bars back in the day. But the majority of the poems in the book were written by our friends and complete strangers who got roped into a round or two of Barstooling.
The poems in this book are of a completely different ilk. And not just because they were written in the 21st Century — in Texas, no less. For one thing, I’ve got barely any poetry contributions in this collection.
But my fingerprints are all over this book due to one big reason: Most of the titles and poems in this anthology were written by people I’ve met and driven around town in my cab. This is poetry from many of the customers who’ve made driving a taxi in Austin — not exactly my life’s ambition — a true pleasure.
So be nice, ye harsh critics of drunken poets.
WE HAD 3 BIG BOWLS GREETING OUR GUESTS on the Star Bar outdoor patio. I encouraged everyone who showed up to drop at least one title-on-a-napkin into Bowl #1, a silver vessel of poetry potential.
And if the mood strikes you . . .
Feel free to reach into Bowl #1, grab a title that’s not yours and write a poem. No pressure. Totally anonymous, if you’d like. Thanks for participating.
Once you’ve completed your masterpiece, drop it into Bowl #2 — a wide bamboo piece that simultaneously invited guests to reach in to pick out a poem to read.
Upon reading a poem snatched from Bowl #2, our guests had the option of dropping the napkin into stylish Bowl #3, a big round fishbowl. These were the best of the best — the poems worthy of being read to the crowd and published in the next volume of Barstool Poetry. (Before I decided to just go ahead and put all of them in here. At least, this first time.)
Things started slow, then picked up as the drinks flowed and the brave new poets began to read some of the poems from Bowl #3. As Kyle might say, there was “some funny ass shit in there.” It was like an overlit karaoke poetry slam, with a dash of open mic night at a comedy club.
Despite the loud tour bus parked-and-running 20 feet from our party and the shitty mic-and-amp combo we delivered our poems into, most of the crowd left at the end of the night seemed to be having fun.
I think we’ll do this again.”