This is the time of year when some people do their year-end roundups. I especially hate those things that people do that look like little newspapers, like The Lipschitz Family Gazette, with thousands of words describing all the minutia of the family’s year. Maybe some people like getting these, what do I know?
The only year-end roundups I’ve done previously were on my food blog, Word of Mouth, now on hiatus, and that was all about what I ate, period. I’m hesitant to do what I’m about to do, but this has been an especially fruitful and satisfying year for me, quite possibly the best year of all my 57 varieties. So, I will do a bit of a roundup here, but ultimately it’s all about thanking and honoring all the people who helped to make this such a fabulous year for Peter Cherches. For we are nothing without the people who lend their encouragement and support to help us realize that which we wish to achieve.
Of course the biggest event was the publication of my book Lift Your Right Arm, which would not have been possible without the unconditional support and trust of an amazing publisher, Mark Givens. This is my first book in over 25 years, and it came about because Mark is a writer-oriented publisher. When Mark, whose online journal MungBeing I’d been publishing in regularly for several years, decided to start a publishing house, Pelekinesis, he invited me to submit a manuscript. At the time I had no book manuscript that I was shopping around. In fact, I had pretty much given up on book publication. But Mark’s invitation inspired me to go through my work, new and old, and come up with the collection that I felt would best represent what I do as a prose writer.
And I must also thank the other generous writers who offered blurbs and reviews, among them Billy Collins, Luc Sante, Michael Martone and Kevin Killian. And a big hug to Bob Holman, who offered the fabulous Bowery Poetry Club for my book party and reading that exceeded all my expectations. It was a blast singing a couple of songs with Lee Feldman, my esteemed collaborator since the mid-80s, and I was so pleased that two of my closest friends, who also happen to be two of my favorite writers, Peter Wortsman and Holly Anderson, agreed to join me on stage.
The rush I got singing those songs again with Lee inspired me to start writing lyrics again this year, for the first time since the ’80s; Lee and I are now working on a new show for next year.
After that heady, exciting and exhausting book release time I took a trip to Greece and Turkey. In Greece I got to realize an old dream, which dates back to my days as a student playwright: to visit the ancient theater at Epidaurus. At Epidaurus I gave myself the incomparable experience of singing my lyric to Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk,” a cappella. Monk is at the top of my artistic pantheon, and to sing his music at such an iconic, legendary theater was perhaps the closest this atheist has come to a sacred experience.
Thanks to the folks outside New York who invited me to read at their stores and venues: Buck Downs for In Your Ear in D.C., Minter Krotzer and Hal Sirowitz at Big Blue Marble in Philadelphia, and for my first west coast readings in over 2o years, Richard Modiano at Beyond Baroque in Venice, Bill Petersen and Eric Whittington at Bird & Beckett in San Francisco, and the folks at Rhino Records in Claremont. Thanks to the fabulous flash fiction writer Meg Pokrass for agreeing to share the Bird & Beckett reading with me, and to the seriously sweet Venice legend Michael C Ford for joining me at Beyond Baroque.
I got to play tourist for the first time in L.A., where I shot a photo of my book with Monk’s star on Hollywood Boulevard.
And thanks to the people who took the time to interview me about the book: Gerry Howard of Doubleday for my Booktalk Nation phone-in and Kirpal Gordon for the feature on the Giant Steps blog.
Thanks to old friend and book publicist extraordinaire Susan Weinstein who was so generous with her time and knowledge.
Thanks to the editors of the journals I’ve published in for the first time this year, including Ann Kjellberg of the fabulous Little Star, Norman Conquest at Black Scat Review, who had been one of the first people to publish my work over 30 years ago in a previous journal, and Adam Henry Carriere of the great online journal Danse Macabre, which in addition to publishing new work of mine has provided a home for some of my revised and resuscitated older fiction.
Another highlight of my year was the opportunity to present the great Norwegian jazz singer Karin Krog to a New York audience. I love giving as well as receiving, but I definitely got more than I gave from that fabulous performance by Karin and Steve Kuhn.
And, of course, thanks to everybody I’ve forgotten to thank.
My old friend Dennis DeForge, who was my co-editor of Zone magazine, said to me recently, “You seem to be going through a renaissance.” I replied, “Give me a couple of hundred years and I may have an enlightenment.” For now I’ll do my best to keep from slipping back to the dark ages.
Sartre was wrong. Heaven is other people.