Our Own D.W. Lichtenberg: Too Cool to be “Hip”

San Francisco’s Space Gallery was a sea of hipster sunglasses last night at the release party of D.W. Lichtenberg’s first book, The Ancient Book of Hip. The sunglasses are just one of Lichtenberg’s ironic gimmicks, in addition to his signature baseball caps and poems stuffed into tiny envelopes. At one point, he asked his audience to put on their glasses and pose for a photo.

“Does anybody have a digital camera I can use?” he asked. “Man, you guys look so cool.” And, just like that, our very own D.W. had spun hipsterdom on its own sarcastic head. “Just so you know, the book’s name and introduction are bullshit. If you didn’t get that, well then, you didn’t get the book.”

The evening started with an introduction given by Matthew Clark Davison, Fourteen Hills Literary Magazine’s advisor and lecturer at San Francisco State University. Fourteen Hills Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hayter described the Michael Rubin Book Award, which is awarded to one SFSU creative writing student each year, and emphasized how hard Lichtenberg worked to write, edit, and market his own work.

“This guy is a marketing whiz,” Hayter said. “He wrote the book while living in New York, and since then has created his own website, found his own illustrator, designed the book’s layout, and lined up readings both in California and on the East Coast. If you want to learn anything about writing your own book and getting it out there, buy Dan a beer and get his thoughts.”

Hollie Hardy, one of Fourteen Hills Literary Magzine’s poetry editors, introduced Lichtenberg’s illustrator, David Gerbstadt, who had flown out from Philadelphia to wallpaper the Space Gallery in original artwork, all created specifically for that night. Gerbstadt had prepared more than 300 drawings, all of which were sold for $1. Many of the smaller drawings were done on pages from discarded library books. 

Other presenters included fellow poetry editor Tera Ragan, who introduced poet Tess Patalano. Patalano, who is in her second year at SFSU's creative writing program, shared a series of poems, including a pantoum about a renegade bull at an illicit New York rodeo. She was followed by Fourteen Hills contributor Truong Tran, who is a poet, visual artist, and teacher. Lichtenberg worked as a teaching assistant in Tran’s Poetry Workshop last year, and so Tran decided to honor him in two ways: first, with a new baseball cap, and second, with a piece called A Mix Tape For Daniel Lichtenberg.

“I wanted to gather a mix tape that spoke to this new generation of writers,” said Tran after the event. “Dan is a part of that generation.”

When asked how he felt about working with Lichtenberg on the book, Gerbstadt replied that he was “...so honored that he picked me for the cover, and that I got to come all the way out here for his first reading.” Gerbstadt survived a harrowing accident with a semi, which Lichtenberg references in Poem for Dave Gerbstadt.

“Next time I see him, I am gonna give him a high five,” Lichtenberg read from the poem as he walked across the floor to the artist and offered him his hand. 

All in all, The Ancient Book of Hip release party was a rousing success. By the end of the night, the Space Gallery was teeming with Lichtenberg’s supporters in sunglasses, eagerly buying Gerbstadt’s art right off the walls. And this was just the first in a series of reading events Lichtenberg has planned from coast to coast; for more information on future readings, check out his website.

Something tells us that this is just the beginning of something far hipper than even D.W.L. has yet to imagine.

--Julia, Fourteen Hills staff

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