On June 29, 2018 at The Blue Room at Third Man Records in Nashville, poet Abraham Smith read his book Destruction of Man (Third Man Books, 2018) in its entirety. Third Man filmed the performance in front of a live audience, and Nashville Review is pleased to be able to share the reading:
“I was in the room when Abraham Smith read all of his book of poetry, Destruction of Man, out loud. You can see for yourself the set-up here, how the box he stood on was mic’d to amplify the thuds of his foot on the wood, so I won’t tell you about that. Instead, I want to say something about what it’s like to have someone read poetry to you for three hours. How I felt like Smith and I were going out to the very far edge of language, to see what happens when you push words to their limit.
It was like watching someone run a marathon—if every step he took caused you to mildly hallucinate. There were whole stretches of time when I couldn’t understand a damn word he was saying, not because he wasn’t speaking clearly, but because my brain was full and couldn’t fit anything more into it. I looked over at Adia Victoria and she was wearing sunglasses. I remember thinking how smart that was, just some way to filter down the experience. I can’t say for certain the sunglasses were real. My brain was doing its best to make sense of what was happening, but the metaphors kept coming. The imagery kept repeating. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. My brain kept firing in strange ways—sights, smells, a kind of weightlessness.
At the end, when Smith was sweating and exhausted and frail, when the stomping had stopped, I felt such a profound sense of thankfulness that he had been willing to put himself through that so that I could experience this. All I could think to say to him was: ‘I hope someone does this for you someday.'”
— Betsy Phillips, author of Jesus Crawdad Death (Third Man Books 2018)
For more about Destruction of Man, visit thirdmanbooks.com