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He chooses the funeral over the poetry reading

Benjamin Peret

Benjamin Peret

Tomorrow’s the book launch for my new book of translations, “The Big Game” (Le grand jeu), by the surrealist Benjamin Péret. It’s the first time this volume will appear in its entirety in English; the pub is Black Widow Press. This is a big deal for me–I have been rehearsing, arranging for surrealist happenings and surprises, buying Bordeaux wine for the event, cheeses and chocolates. Recording French music.

The launch coincides with the launch of a new poetry series at our local independent bookstore in Knoxville, Union Avenue Books. Two distinguished colleagues will read with me. We each have 15 minutes and I pray to God my co-readers keep to their sched. One of my great phobias in life is readers who go overtime. I’ve come by this fear honestly, having directed the creative writing program at UT for many years. One of our featured authors at UT, a famous poet, read for over two hours and the cafeteria workers had to go home so they took away the food we had ordered for 400 people. That’s not the only time a professi onal author has droned on too long.

The funeral for one of Lou’s colleagues is also being held tomorrow. He asked me, “Should I go to the funeral or to your reading?” Now Lou is the best sound engineer in town, and I’d love to have him there; he’d have my back, sound-wise. But I said, “What do you think you should do?”

And he said, “If it was only you reading, I’d come, but the others may go long, and I can’t bear it.”

I’m hoping for the best. There will be wine! And my new book is gorgeous gorgeous. It’s a like a new baby that comes shrink-wrapped; it speaks French and is very witty. Big ears.

M aybe I should bring a buzzer or a whip ?

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