How CAConrad turns ritual into poetry.
Last year, I attended a reading at Over the Eight, the now-defunct Williamsburg bar and performance space. Eileen Myles was headlining. But another poet, CAConrad, a close friend of Myles, captured my attention. He took his place at center stage, a large man draped in billowy clothes and what he calls his “war hair,” which he hasn’t cut since 2006, on the three-year anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Baghdad. He read from a piece entitled “Power Sissy Intervention #1: Queer Bubbles.” It began with what sounded like a short story or anecdote: “I occupied a busy street corner in Asheville, North Carolina,” he said, “to bless children with bubbles that will make them queer.”
He went on to describe the reactions of passersby as he blew bubbles, shouting that they had magical properties to “help rid the world of homophobia, misogyny, racism, and other forms of stupidity.” The audience laughed. Some cheered. Conrad smiled. “Bubbles, of course, do not have such powers,” he acknowledged—but he was serious, serious about the act of standing on a corner blowing bubbles and watching how the world responded.
After relating the anecdote, he told us that he’d taken notes on the experience. These notes became a poem, which he read aloud. The poem was completely unexpected—it was not in any way about bubbles, for one thing—but it was funny, angry, shot through with violence and informed by a reverence for nature. The first lines stuck with me: “I was naked / on a mountaintop / kissing someone / who loved me,” and the last: “there is nothing little about the cicada revving up while / we think our car horns / are so impressive.” The audience was rapt. You could hear the uninitiated whispering: Who is this guy? Read More