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A Frank Poem by CA Conrad

There are books of poems that are easy reads that I finish quickly. Bernadette Mayer’s Utopia was a book like that, so was Ted Berrigan’s Train Ride, and Bill Kushner’s Head. Recently, and not so recently anymore, CA Conrad’s The Book of Frank was also a book like that. By easy read, I don’t mean to criticize it. There is nothing wrong with a fun read. In fact, I think it’s commendable when the poet pulls that off or better yet pulls you in and makes you forget what time it is.

I first met CA Conrad in Philadelphia, October 2000. He was reading with Maralyn Polak (a friend I’d come to hear) at Giovanni’s Room, now defunct but then on Pine Street. Afterward, Conrad gave me a printed copy of a poem which I liked and have always kept, an early Frank poem. Philadelphia is a wonderful city for poets. In fact, The Book of Frank won the Gil Ott Book Award there. Gil Ott was a seminal mover and shaker among poets in the seventies. He hosted a radio show out of the University of Pennsylvania, edited and published a magazine, Paper Air, and later coordinated readings and performances at the Painted Bride. At lunchtime back in the mid-seventies, Gil and I would hang out in back of Independence Hall in the park reading poems through a megaphone to all the secretaries who’d come to eat their lunches. I often read Keats, Gil Apollinaire. Looking back, I have to smile because I think Gil’s motive might not only have been enlightenment but a chance to pick up women, perhaps a pretty tourist or one of those secretaries having lunch. RIP Gil Ott. Well done.


A Frank poem


Time flies. In 2013, I asked CA Conrad if I could film him reading the Frank poem that he’d given me and he said sure. I went to a reading he was giving at McNally Jackson Books in Soho one evening in August. He arrived a little late and while the first two poets read, stood at the back having just come in on the train from Philly. Being a poet is a lot of work; it made me tired just thinking about it. I should have taped Conrad while he read because it was a strong performance. When it was over, fans got in line for him to sign books, talk, fling glitter into the air. I hadn’t seen so much excitement gather around a poet in quite a while. Conrad did the recording in one take.



I put off publishing this Frank post because I’d sadly misplaced the original that Conrad had given. Of course, I could have scanned the poem from the book, but I wanted the original. I had a copy I’d printed myself (planning to carry and memorize it), but it was folded and wrinkled, and scanned awfully. This summer, I found the original as good as new in a box with children’s drawing, students I had had in elementary school many years ago, garden studies, pictures of butterflies, and sow bugs, honey bees and earthworms.


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Meanwhile, the two versions of The Book of Frank have sold well, almost out. It’s always good policy to ask for a book you want at a bookstore. In this case, there are quite a few used copies at Amazon. Even at this late date, I can recommend a book that I read happily.

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