The Final Launch of “6×6”,
the Poetry Periodical from Ugly Duckling Press
Headlights beam along the industrial part of Flushing Ave as I walk through Ridgewood yet again. The 24-hour tire repair shop sits alongside the Chinese manufacturing warehouse; not many pedestrians walk this busy avenue. The aluminum walls I approach open to a parking lot, the entrance to Knockdown Center. According to their website, this 50,000 square foot building has constantly been used for one thing or another since its creation. The building has been family owned for the entirety of its existence. The name Knockdown Center comes from the fact that the “knock-down” door style, which could be assembled from a variety of pieces on construction sites, was created here in this factory space under the Manhattan Door Factory. Before that it was a glass factory under the auspices of Gleason-Tiebout. The open courtyard space has an overloaded bike rack, a handful of cars, and a few twenty-somethings milling about with cigarettes dangling from their lips and fingers. The theater-style sign draws in anyone who may walk past, with the name of the venue, the promise of a bar, and nothing more. There is a neon sign in one of the windows which reads ‘Jimmy’s Thrift’ and the purple lights of the space for 6×6 glows out onto the gravel beneath the stairs to glass doors, locked from the outside.
The patrons all move through the main foyer area, where a security guard and a nice young lady check my ID and give me a wristband. To my right is a funky art exhibit, directly in front of me is a sign for a bar, and to my left is a wide open area which has doors leading outside. There are a few things happening here this evening, including a screening of “Goodfellas” in the open courtyard which reminds me of the drive-in theaters of Upstate New York. There are people populating every offering in this warehouse tonight. I immediately head towards the event for the Ugly Duckling Press. This independent publishing company has been situated in Brooklyn, New York, for about 25 years; they have been pumping out copies of 6×6 poetry periodicals on a non-cyclical schedule for the last 17 years. This evening marks their 36th release, and the end of an era for Ugly Duckling and “6×6”.
The event had some scattered seating, and a rather large standing crowd. As I walked into the event, I was handed a flyer that I could exchange for a copy of “6×6”. They had many of the publication’s past editions out on a table in the back corner. Opposite the book table was a bar, where a young bartender adorned in a western outfit was selling a selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. The crowd can be best described as the varied community of young and old fans of literature that dot the emerging neighborhoods of East Brooklyn and Western Queens. There were some musicians sitting beside their instruments, and many interested parties chatting up friends new and old.
At the onset of the event the head of Ugly Duckling took the microphone and said a few words about the experience of creating this publication. He gave many thanks to the team that helped to hand bind every edition, and to the many poets who had contributed to it over the years. The first performers of the evening were a duo; a man with an acoustic guitar and a man with a cajon, a wooden box used for percussion. The two of them sang a few songs before the first poet took the stage. The evening’s set list was a medley of music and poetry.
After some readings, we were treated to a delightfully avante-garde jazz performance that fused the two together. An older gentleman with a sax stood before the mic, while his cohort on stage sat with a guitar. The ringing notes echoed out with effects from the guitar, while the sax player dotted the atmosphere with a beautiful series of melodies. The effect was a beautiful punctuation of sound that enraptured the audience. An old poet walked up to the mic and started to read his somatic lines with an eerie delivery. The trio of men created an aura of ethereal transportation. One was no longer in a warehouse in Ridgewood; you were moved to a place without any real boundaries. The echoes of guitar notes reverberating through this room only helped to remove one from the space. The brass carried the listener to a world of vibrant notes strung together over the voice of a poet who filled the room with magic. The audience had a hushed lull of awe; everyone was floating together through a sea of unreality.
After this exquisite performance, we were treated to something on the lighter side. A quartet known as Faomola took the stage, two men and two women. The ensemble was made up of guitar, keyboard, a tiny xylophone, and four voices. The content was enough to get a few chuckles out of the audience. The hit that had the most attention from the audience was about taking Prozac while reading Balzac, aptly named Balzac Prozac.
The total set-list included poetry by Anna Gurton-Wachter, Anselm Berrigan, Bridget Talone, Chia-Lun Chang, Katy Lederer, Kristen Gallagher, Sarah Wang, Ted Dodson, Thibault Raoult, and Tony Iantosca; musically they had Daniel Carter and Loren Connors, Horse Lords, Foamola, I Feel Tractor, and Matt Mottel.
The poets delivered their magnificent works to attentive listeners sipping beer or cocktails. Smokers milled about between the stairs outside. The atmosphere screamed of the modern urban aesthete. One could tell that many in the audience belonged to the same communities of art — or at least overlapping ones. It is a pleasure and a delight to realize that the independent publishing scene of New York is helping to propel other fields such as avant-garde jazz, bizarre folksy comedic music, and the arena of Knockdown Center.
About the author:
Greg Stewart writes the Around New York column for Ragazine.CC. He is an intern from The New School for Social Research. You can read more about him in About Us.