To pick up where I left off, the Ryan Adams + Mary-Louise Parker talk at the NYPL on Friday was pretty great. Structured as a casual conversation between the two poetry lovers, NYPL’s Paul Holdengraber gave a very brief intro before handing the stage over to the old friends (for three years they were neighbors).
Much of the first half of the discussion was peppered with references to Mary-Louise’s friend, poet and Columbia University professor Mark Strand, who both credited with widening their horizons and understanding of poetry.
Ryan spoke at length about how he imagines a big gang of people with “unhappy face shirts on” just waiting to tear him down. On putting his work and himself out in the world for public consumption, Ryan commented that when something is seeing as being “too artistic” people tend to paint it as coming form a place of “self-entitlement,” for Ryan it’s more of an opportunity for pure expression, that in general he feels his work doesn’t always stimulate the intellect, but does stimulate emotion.
Mary-Louise elaborated on the discussion of the mob mentality of critics by saying that for people who are the the public eye, there is very real hurt that comes with hearing criticism. Talking about anonymous internet commentators, Mary-Louise commented that “the voice that’s going to be heard is the meanest voice in the room.”
Ryan responded that the work he does is not even intended to be incredibly intellectual — that most of his songwriting and poetry is based on more trivial things, joking that it’s inspired by things like asking if his behind looks good in his jeans, or moaning about getting dumped.
He also talked at length about his dark years of addiction and alcoholism — about how it made him not a very nice person and how his first book of poetry was written during this time and how he now has “writer’s remorse” over the work.
Ryan also referenced one of his writing methods involving taking two pieces of information not meant to be creative (example – an entry in a reference book and a newspaper article), and trying to tie the two together with language and imagery. On top of that he mentioned his obsession with always doing something–commenting that if you leave him in your house alone, you’d probably come back to see him fixing your VCR, to which Mary-Louise laughed and reminded him of the time she came back to her apartment to find him cleaning her floor.
When asked by Mary-Louise if he was good at editing his work, he retorted that he has an “inability to edit” and that when he is writing poetry it is “Cold Roses times eleventy.”
Ryan ended the chat with Mary-Louise by mentioning some recommended poets (Frederick Seidel, Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Eileen Myles — whose book title “Sorry, Tree” bemused Ryan, John Ashbery) and reading two poems from “Hello, Sunshine.”
Here’s some video of the event I found on the Youtube:
More over at the Columbia Spectator.
Also, watch Mary-Louise read one of Mark Strands poems as part of Poetry Everywhere.