Poetry Slam Becomes Bar Brawl

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Last night I had the distinct honor of an early turn on the mic at Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s farewell-to-summer reading, hosted by New York literary impresario Jason Diamond. The event was held in the back of CultureFix, a perhaps fatefully cramped art gallery/bar on the Lower East Side. Things went smoothly—well, my whole immediate family got heckled by Ariana Reines when they left to keep a dinner reservation after she read an epic poem about chodes—but sure, pretty smoothly, until the penultimate reader, Jami Attenberg, began reading a very funny excerpt from her forthcoming novel, The Middlesteins. Right then, a bartender went around picking up glasses in the very crowded room (just doing his job, to be fair). But, as Ms. Attenberg writes:

… after I finished reading, Jason got up to introduce the last reader [Michael Robbins, poet and author of Alien Vs. Predator], and said something like, “Sorry for this place sounding like a piano bar with all the glasses clinking,” and then the bartender said, “If you all would have brought your glasses to the bar,” and then there was some more back and forth, and honestly I wish I could remember exactly what was said because I couldn’t really believe it was happening but I do remember the bartender calling the whole lot of us “pretentious.”

Being a nervous performer and therefore drinking at a frightful rate all evening, my memory of this moment is also a bit hazy. I was probably just chuckling quietly to myself. Suffice it to say that around this time, Mr. Robbins, now wearing a black fedora of unknown provenance, seized the mic and unfavorably compared the bartender to Billy Joel.

This, I believe, was the tipping point.

Mr. Diamond followed the bartender through a curtain to the bar area, called him “a real piece of shit” and then engaged in a scuffle. Apparently Mr. Diamond received a headbutt that broke his glasses. The fight continued—briefly pausing Mr. Robbins’ reading of a poem called “My New Asshole,” which he had loudly dedicated to the bartender—until various parties exhorted both men to consider their life, choices, etc. The bartender vanished. The party broke up. Afterward, out on Clinton Street, Mr. Robbins could be heard asking at high volume whether anyone wanted to buy his book.

Was there a happy ending? Well, in all the confusion, I got fellow reader Melissa Broder, on whom I may have a bit of a crush, to sign my copy of Meat Heart. And several of us repaired to the Library for Tecate tallboys. So yeah!

meat heart