Review: KGB Monday Night Poetry – Justin Marks and Timothy Liu

Justin Marks just lost his job. He apologized in advance of his reading for being unprepared and distracted but, as someone who just lost his own job, I can tell you that such things are often blessings in disguise. For the audience at KGB Barit turned out to be an opportunity to hear some of the poems Justin doesn’t normally share at his readings.
His second book of poems, You’re Going To Miss Me When You’re Bored, was published in February by Barrelhouse Books. His reading included this poem:
A New Form(ula)
Plan the future                        A presence unknown
                        Derivative is the way I hit snooze
for an hour on my alarm each morning
rediscover and marvel at
            my one grey chest hair
When I don’t know how to respond
            to people
I don’t respond
            This causes obvious problems
Never do I wear
            my sunglasses inside               The (false) modesty
problem forbids me                 My low fat quesadilla
                        is especially greasy
The sky sweeps up      the sky
            Brilliance radiates
                        from the sun
A crop duster swoops down,
            tips its wings side to side
            as if to say, hi              One day
                                    we will all be dead.
I feel best when I write best
There are many ways I could grow
            my facial hair, but all I do is shave.
                        Right now I have no idea how to feel
We want to believe that without love we’d disappear, that if we have love, give love
and know love, we are truly alive and if there is no love, there would be no life. But
the terror is that without love, life goes on. We go on.
            The soft bullet in
                        No mercy
Your nail polish is the pinkest of bubble gum
            A ringing endorsement
            My sunglasses are covered in red
            smiley faces
Tim Liu (Liu Ti Mo) makes effective use of a Tibetan singing bowl to introduce each of his poems, making them seem almost sacred, even when their content is decidedly profane.
His latest work, Don’t Go Back To Sleep, was published in October by Saturnalia Books with a cover illustration by Tim’s husband, Christopher Arabadjis.
While themes of sex, love, and marriage run through the poems of both men, they approach them from very different perspectives. Justin’s poems reach conclusions like “Marriage is ruining my marriage,” “Why can’t we love each other like we used to,”  and “It’s my wife’s night out. The kids run rough-shod over me.” At the other end of the spectrum, Tim finds “Nothing so consequential as putting your cock in another man’s mouth for the first time,” and “Not to brag but in between the cardio and the weights, I got to suck three dicks, two of them married.”
Tim’s reading included this poem:

The air infused with a bottle
of Chateau Lafite as he
took you from the amuse bouche
to the petits fours flanking
a molten-lava soufflé
the sommelier set on fire
and you could say you’re off—
the horses in his Maserati
kicking under the hood all the way
back to a bungalow tucked
behind a security gate—
not the kind of excitement
you’d find on
Forget usernames or profile pics—
this was Romanticism’s endgame
and you wanted nothing else
but his Mani-fuck-fest Destiny
to exploit your natural resources
and take your genitals hostage—
newly indentured needs
you didn’t know you even had
till he laid his hands on you,
tongue pillaging every orifice
with the force of the Crusades
before you made it out of his car—
doors flying up like a winged
beetle chewing down every
last indigenous pine stippling
what’s left of a landscape
soaked in blood. Kind of night
where history’s either made
or ignored by victors who refuse
to divide the spoils—granaries full
since childhood plundered
in an instant—let all the brutes
starve, what did you care as he
drilled into you, gushing
mineral gold in the heart’s dry
bed that hadn’t tasted flood since
almanacs first were kept.

On the north side of East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and the Bowery, KGB bar is a dingy second floor speakeasy used by Ukranian Socialists during the McCarthy era. The Monday night poetry series at KGB has lasted more than a decade and continues to enhance the bar’s reputation as one of NYC’s premier literary institutions. Check their calendar for upcoming events, including the participants in Monday’s poetry series.

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