June’s Perch Pub event celebrated Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s birthday and recent Pew Fellowship in the Arts award with a packed house and readings by Juliette, Ian Davisson and Ocean Vuong, plus DJ Electrostani bringing on the bhangra!
Juliette introduced Ian by calling him a “bleeding bear” with “sexual teeth.” Oh yes, my friends, it was going to be a good night. Davisson began his set by prefacing a poem to his mother, a cancer survivor, who was with us in the audience. Up from Georgia, it was her first time seeing her son read poems, so the possibilities for embarrassment were high. Everyone chuckled with expectations of love and mischief, and we were not disappointed. Davisson read long, highly engaging poems with a heartfelt tone. He closed his reading with the poem, “Allison.” It began with the lines: “Last night I / watched my / south Philly / neighbors / screwing / through an open / window / and realized / they must watch me / too.” Wanna read the rest? Of course you do. Head here: http://iandavisson.tumblr.com/
Next, Juliette! Wearing a red flower in her hair and a beautiful new dress just perfect for the bash, she read from a new series of poems called Daybook. The manuscript engages the North Korea crisis that occurred in Spring 2013, as well as the relationship between North and South Korea and how it all communicates her feelings about a past relationship. Each poem began with a date during the crisis and a headline from that day’s newspaper. There was even mention of Kim Jong Un’s “friend for life,” Dennis Rodman. It was also announced that Futurepoem Press had just picked up Juliette’s next book of poem, Solar Maximum! Here’s to the birthday, the Pew, the Futurepoem, and everything else amazing that awaits Juliette in the coming year!
Now, DJ Electrostani… turn that music up!
After the break, the crowd was treated to rising-star Ocean Vuong. A Brooklyn resident and Kundiman Fellow, Ocean is a recipient of a 2013 Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize, as well as an Academy of American Poets Prize. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Ocean began with “American Dreams,” a poem weaving Jackie O and JFK into a heart-sweeping love letter to the country he now calls home. It began, “Look—we made it. We’re riding / in the back of the black limousine.” Ocean read his poems with a soft, longing voice combined with a powerful, masterful eye. Every poem he read was delicate, had the muscle to rock you to your bones. Ocean closed his set with a poem written to his unborn son, a son he said he would “possibly” never have.
Yes, friends, it was a night to break your heart—and it was a night to shake your ass. After all the joyous applause for the three incredible readers, the Perch Pub brought out a cake crowned in sugar and candles. We sang Happy Birthday to Juliette, and then kicked it with DJ Electrostani on into the Philadelphia night.