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Phyllis Wat reads from Wu

Last Thursday I went over to Phyllis Wat and Dennis Moritz’s home on Grand Street just a few blocks east of the great (inexpensive) Chinese restaurants and markets before you get to the Bowery. I’d seen Phyllis read at an art gallery in Chelsea a year or so ago and since then I’ve been wanting to video her, and finally got around to asking. I’ve known Phyllis since the 1970s back in Philadelphia where there was a lot of great poetry going on, another part of the Philly Sound. Phyllis and I can talk and remind each other about musicians, artists, and poets we knew and heard at readings back then like Gene Baxter, Stephen Berg, Bockris-Wylie, Henry Braun, Otis Brown, Peter Bushyeager, Joel Colten, Jim Cory, Susan Daily, Diane Devennie, Jack DeWitt, Dan Evans, Frank Favrica, Gerry Givnish, Leonard Gontarek, Alexandra Grilikhes, Merilyn Jackson, Annson Kenny, Ethridge Knight, Leonard Kress, Khan Jamal, even Richmond Lattimore, Bill Lewis, Mary McGinnis, Patience Merriman, Del Molarsky, Dennis Moritz, Toby Olsen, Gil Ott, Maralyn Polak, Jim Quinn, Randal Rupert, Arthur Sabatini, Sonia Sanchez, Louise Simons, Stephen Spera, Lamont Steptoe, Gerald Stern, William Talen, Jane Vacante, Jack Veasey, Frank Walsh, Marty Watt, C.K. Williams, Jet Wimp, and many more all remembered now or forgotten. Dennis Cooper is one writer I know who will tell you how special Philly was in the 70s.

Anyway, back in the present on Grand Street NYC, the poems Phyllis reads are from her latest book Wu, going there published by United Artist Press. Phyllis had looked over the work before I got there and was well prepared; I think some of the emotion she expresses during her reading is because of her preparedness; it frees her up to improvise her feelings as if experiencing the words she speaks for the first time.

Below is one of the five poems that Phyllis Wat reads.

My Life in Hieroglyphs

I own three ropes, one with a loop
at each end, one a candlewick, and one that is knotted
that is all my ropes, and one is a light

I have a mouth, a loaf, water
water in a pool, a courtyard, a mat
I have a door bolt

with folded cloth and basket
with my hand, arm and foot
I set out for the hill, I do not say Nature
I call it horned viper or cobra, owl or vulture, or lion
and the quail chick is part of my tally
three birds, two snakes, one mammal

add to this, placenta—sheen of mortality
and the reed blade I need
to write and remember, resist

You can order Wu here:


Check out and learn more about the seminal publisher, United Artist Books, here:


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