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Panic Attack, USA book tour stops by the Brass Rail

Poetry takes the stage for one night

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Some readers might remember a time not that long ago when Brass Rail co-owner John Commorato, Jr. was a frequent fixture at different poetry readings in the area. Though he doesn’t perform very regularly these days, Commorato still has a passion for poetry and spoken word, and on rare occasions likes to offer up something in that field at the Brass Rail — provided, of course, that the work fits the venue.

And Thursday, November 17, happens to be one of those rare occasions. Poets Nate Slawson and Matt Hart will be reading from their work as part of a book launch tour behind Slawson’s collection Panic Attack, USA. Headliner Slawson, based in Chicago, is fairly well-known on the indie scene — you can find snippets of his readings on YouTube — and Panic Attack, USA is his first full collection.

“Nate is very interesting,” says KMA Sullivan, founder of Yes Yes Books out of Blacksburg, Virginia, a new company that focuses on emerging poets and publishes Panic Attack, USA. “Slawson’s work is extremely lively, a lot of sensuality, a lot of passion, a lot of connections to contemporary culture. It’s very highly crafted yet very passionate and energized at the same time.”

Sullivan launched Yes Yes Books not even a year ago, based on her own love of poetry and her conviction that there is an enthusiastic audience out there for poetry, but that the publishing industry — or at least the part of it that deals with poetry — doesn’t quite know how to reach it. “I feel like poets have almost given up thinking that people are interested in what they do, and I think it’s because poetry is marketed incorrectly,” she says. “Most poetry right now is marketed to poets, but that’s not the way to do it. Because poetry is like music, it’s like visual art, it’s something that human beings are instinctively drawn to and fed by.”

Basically, Sullivan feels poetry has to be accessible, and that’s the kind of work Yes Yes Books publishes and champions. “Because of the kind of poetry Nate Slawson and Matt Hart write, and because of their general… ‘schtick,’ the book launch tour needs to be more than the regular stops at bookstores and coffee houses,” Sullivan says.

“To me, this type of poetry is so much like music,” she adds. “We listen to music because it connects with us and makes us feel things, and that’s the intensity of it. This type of poetry is like that. It’s not that this poetry wouldn’t work in a bookstore, but it’s bigger than that, more intense than that. And I want to get to folks who might not show up to a coffee shop for a reading; I want to get to folks who show up at a bar for a beer.”

Sullivan credits Weston Cutter, a poet and Assistant Professor of English at University of Saint Francis, as pointing the way towards the Brass Rail as a possible stop on the tour. She says she was thrilled to find that the bar’s co-owner was a fan and a poet in his own right. “John (Commorato) was so positive just from the get-go,” Sullivan says. “He was into publishing a number of years ago, and was very excited about doing this kind of reading at the Brass Rail, which is perfect. That’s what we want, someone who actually loves poetry and will get charged up about it.”

Commorato adds: “They’re actually doing this like a rock tour. They’ve got t-shirts and the whole bit, and I think a rock club like the Brass Rail is a good fit for them.”

Commorato is one of two local poets sharing the bill with Slawson and Hart. “Typically, I don’t do stuff like this at my own bar,” he laughs. “It’s too much like the ‘bully pulpit.’ But this will be my first time reading new material in about a year-and-a-half. I’m really excited about these guys, and this is something I’d participate in even if it weren’t at the Brass Rail.”

Former FWR music scribe Ben Larson is also on the bill (yeah, we didn’t know he was a poet either). Larson says he typically writes material that he describes as surrealist, influenced by poets like Cesar Vallejo, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pablo Neruda. But in fitting with the more concrete imagery of Slawson and Hart, Larson says he’s going to read from a series he’s been working on called “The Panic Cycles.” “The message and imagery in these poems are much more clear and straightforward than what I usually write,” he says. “And they focus on one specific topic — anxiety. I've dealt with crippling anxiety for most of my life, and writing these poems is, I suppose, a means with which to deal with that.”

The Poseidon Club will also perform, a choice of which provides another item for the “small world” file: apparently, the woman who designed the Panic Attack, USA book jacket for Yes Yes Books, a student at Parsons named Ghangbin Kim, was a fan of the band on Facebook.

The reading is on Thursday, November 17 at the Brass Rail. It starts at 9 PM sharp, and there is no cover (though they are accepting donations).

For more on Slawson, Hart, and Kim, or Yes Yes Books, visit yesyesbooks.com

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