“Substitute Teacher”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

“Put Your Ears On” was a poetry show on cable TV during the 1990s. “Substitute Teacher” is a prose monologue about the aspirations of an instructor who discusses his personal relationship with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a friend of an old friend, Lenny Durso. She had run across a video of me and wrote a brief note of appreciation. I myself hadn’t viewed it recently, and her kind e-mail made me curious to screen it again. Watching this video this morning, I almost don’t recognize myself. Age perturbs gently, but its enfolding suction is relentless. Just a few years ago, I didn’t seem to be that much different. Now it would be impossible for me to perform “Substitute Teacher” and create quite the same effect. I would almost have to transcribe the tone of voice, and ease it down to a slightly slower, more wistful tone, in order to make this monologue work. Thirty-five years of adult life: “all is transformed: transformed utterly.”

I started “Put Your Ears On” as a television show on the Century Cable’s Public Access program. My first primary goal was to record Leland Hickman reading his poetry, and the programming developed from there in much the same manner as a reading series at a coffee house. It was, in fact, a reading series I did with Cahuenga Press poet Phoebe (MacAdams) Ozuna at the Gasoline Alley coffee house that provided the critical impetus to do this show. Gasoline Alley was not the first reading series I’d done, and I felt a growing exasperation at the lack of any record of poets reading in their “youth.” Public Access TV was just starting to take off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it proved to be the perfect vehicle.

I hope you enjoy it.