three poets: one with curly brown hair and flower over their ear; one gazing intensely directly ahead; one holding a cat under their arm

An Evening of Nice: On David Melnick, with Benjamin Friedlander, J. Gordon Faylor, Jo Aurelio Giardini

Thursday, February 15, 2024
Event Time 07:00 p.m. - 09:00 p.m. PT
Cost Free and open to the public
Location Et al. etc., 2831a Mission Street, San Francisco
Contact Email


The Poetry Center co-presents with our friends at Small Press Traffic (celebrating their 50th anniversary) an evening in celebration of late San Francisco poet David Melnick (1938–2022), marking the publication of Nice: Collected Poems (Nightboat Books). We welcome to San Francisco Benjamin Friedlander, one of the book's editors, together with J. Gordon Faylor and Jo Aurelio Giardini, to speak to the work and life of David Melnick, with Noah Ross of SPT as emcee.

Et al. etc. bookstore and gallery is located at street level on Mission Street near 24th Street BART.

VIDEO for this program will be posted after editing at Poetry Center Digital Archive.

Historic video newly posted: David Melnick reading Men in Aïda, from Book II: April 23, 1984.

Nice spans twenty crucial years of gay life and experimentation with poetic form, bringing together four masterworks of American literature: Eclogs (1967–70), ten episodes in the urban afterlife of the pastoral; PCOET (1972), written in an unknown tongue, verse for a world that’s yet to be; Men in Aïda (1983–85), Melnick’s masterpiece, a giddy epic of queer community; and A Pin’s Fee (1988), a backward glance and elegy, a cry of pain, a howl of anger.

David Melnick was born in Illinois in 1938 and raised in Los Angeles, educated at the University of Chicago (where he studied with Hannah Arendt) and the University of California at Berkeley. Although he spent time in France, Greece, and Spain (whence his mother’s ancestors emigrated in 1492), most of his adult life was centered in San Francisco. For an author’s note he once wrote, “This poet’s politics are left, his sexual orientation gay, his family Jewish. . . . He is short, fat, and resembles Modeste Moussorgsky in face and Gertrude Stein in body type and posture.” A participant in the Free Speech movement, Melnick was a key member of G.A.W.K. (Gay Artists and Writers Kollective) and an early inspiration to the Language Poets. His masterpiece, Men in Aida, began in a reading group organized by Robert Duncan. Melnick passed away in 2022, a day before his 84th birthday.

Benjamin Friedlander is a poet, scholar, and editor. His poetry collections include The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes (Subpress, 2007), One Hundred Etudes (Edge, 2012), and Some Cares (Spuyten Duyvil, 2024). With Alison Fraser, Jeffrey Jullich, and Ron Silliman he edited Nice: The Collected Poems of David Melnick (Nightboat, 2024). He has also edited the writings of Larry Eigner, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley. Since 1999 Friedlander has taught American literature and poetics at the University of Maine, where he edits the scholarly journal Paideuma.

J. Gordon Faylor is the author of Fort Discloses Guests If You Wait Enough (Smiling Mind Documents) and Sun Shelter Gray (Zahir Editions), among other works. He is the former editor of Gauss PDF, and the former managing editor of SFMOMA's Open Space. He currently lives in Queens, NY.

Jo Giardini lives in Baltimore, by way of Vancouver, and is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Studies at Johns Hopkins. They are writing on the politics of communalism and separatism in the 1970s, and working on a critical history of the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, its relationship to trans communities in Baltimore, and its often noxious effects on access to trans care and affirmation.


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