Notes on a Tebot Bach Reading – Goldenwest College – 28 October 2011

Friday night was Game 7 of the World Series of one of America’s various sports. Since it’s a world series and I want to show ethnic solidarity with my ancestors, I hope Ireland and Hungary do well in the competition.

Aha! Michelle with two Ls! That’s the name of Tom Thomas‘ wife! Not knowing has been bugging me for weeks.

Tom mentioned my blog to Mifanwy Kaiser. Apparently, he sometimes reads it. Hi, Tom!

In response, Mifanwy mentioned something her friend said, that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it, that being a poet is hard enough, that being disparaging takes too much energy. I got a little paranoid, given the context of the conversation. Were those comments aimed at me? Had I been negative? My sister Kathleen had just told me a few days earlier that she found my blog “humble and honest,” which is what I want. I hope I haven’t been mean to people.

John Perry was the host for the evening. He wore a yellow Cal t-shirt over a long-sleeved dark blue shirt, making him look like a skater boy. I think I forgot to rib him about that. Once again, he baked a bunch of delicious breads.

The room was filled with a passel of friends, women of apparent experience and wisdom, joyously reconnecting with one another. One had just gotten back from Virginia — her daughter had quipped, “Virginia’s in Virginia!” That was either a comment on how far away it was or on her mother’s first name. I don’t know.

Cory De Silva of Bank-Heavy Press showed up with his friend Josh Hernandez and his other friend, who is a rock-climber and studying to be a firefighter. (I forget the second friend’s name.) They sat with me at my table. I’ve started sitting near the middle of the room, not off on the side in the darkness, like before.

Paul Tayyar of World Parade Books was there, sitting near us. One day, I need to introduce myself to him. One day, I need to discover how anyone gets published on his press, which apparently accepts no open submissions.

LeeAnne McIlroy was the first feature. I saw her in Glendora a couple of months ago. I recall that she teaches creative writing to nurses. Her poems had a Halloween theme. She read a villanelle about bats. She read a tanka and mentioned Tom Thomas’ penchant for short poems. She read a piece about the prehistoric La Brea Woman, Los Angeles’ first documented murder victim. Her mom came to the reading, as she apparently often does. She closed her rather brief set with a song her mother used to sing to her, “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s The Jungle Book. accompanying herself on her father’s ukelele.

Thea Iberall was up next. For some reason, I think her mom was in the audience, too; I could be wrong. She’s a poet, an actor, a playwright, a scientist, a woman of many hats. She and some of the women in the audience had just returned from presenting We Did It For You!: Women’s Journey Through History at an event honoring one hundred years of women’s suffrage. Her book The Sanctuary of Artemis is a work of contextual poetry, a form both which she invented and which has a long history — I’m not quite sure how that works. I’m probably missing something. The Sanctuary of Artemis explores the overthrow of matrilinear society by patriarchal society, and establishes that male-dominated culture is only an option, not a natural fact. It grows out of two trips Thea took to Greece and Eastern Europe, covering ancient religion and the Holocaust. Thea was a powerful performer. I kept my head down, my eyes on the door, and my mind working on exit strategies, in case her dramaturgic energies transformed this room full of women into a horde of rampaging Maenads.

After the break, at the time for the open reading, Mifanwy had to use her “teacher voice” to get people to sit down and shut up. She quipped, “It’s an unruly crowd tonight.” (pre-Maenad-transformation hubbub!) She reminded people to read only two poems or five minutes, whichever came first, or else the host would gradually approach the podium and eventually cut the reader off.

The first open reader was David Rosenfeld, a regular attendee and a formal poet. In a room filled with excited feminists, he read a sonnet attacking liberals; I found that an intriguing choice. He also read a more innocuous sonnet about music.

Cory read his cat poem from Orangutan, Bank-Heavy’s second anthology. It was the same poem Kevin Lee read at Gatsby Books in September.

One of Thea’s friends wrote and read a poem about Artemis.

Cory’s friend Josh read two poems, one about his parents’ fighting when he was little and one about people he supposedly looks like.

Tom Thomas read a longer poem for a change, one he had recently posted on Facebook about his time working on the Ren & Stimpy show. I liked it a lot. He also gave shout-outs to Bank-Heavy Press’s two anthologies and Kevin Lee’s Reverb magazine.

Sue Snyder and Richard Snyder left before their turns at the mic.

Lorenzo read a poem about his social-justice work in Atlanta.

When it was my turn, I read “The Tutelary Spirits” and “Urban Landscape.” I received encouraging, appropriate responses from the audience. When I had finished, John Perry, who was suddenly standing right next to me, shook my hand and said he just wanted to thank me for doing a good job. Everyone laughed. I felt pleased and honored at his positive feedback. Then, having returned to my seat, I realized he had been standing right next to me because I had read for so long. Cory let me know that I had stopped reading just before John reached the podium to pull me off. D’oh!

John Perry wrapped up the open reading with a Halloween poem and his piece “AKA.” I didn’t pay much attention, because I was still busy feeling embarrassed.

Notes on Two Idiots Peddling Poetry – The Ugly Mug – 26 October 2011

I thought I was going to be in trouble Wednesday night, partly for not coming to The Ugly Mug last week when Josef Lemoine was featuring, partly because of how I ate what I ate for dinner. I went to Game Day All American Hot Dogs. (What is it with me and hot dogs before poetry readings?) On the way in, I passed by one of my Santiago Canyon College students coming out, a student who had just blown off my class. He gave me a curt nod, playing Mr. Cool or something. Whatever. Busted. We’ll reassess how cool Chris Flores is after I drop him from the roster. Anyway, I ordered two hot dogs, each of which came with a yellow sport pepper on the side. Like an idiot, I ate the first sport pepper whole, along with a bite of Carolina dog. Instant hiccups and coughing. Ugh. How was I going to read with the hiccups? But I soldiered on, and they eventually subsided by the time I finished the Italian sausage.

As usual by now, I arrived early, well before the All-Female Gospel Hour ended its weekly rehearsal. I sat on the patio with LilBob and Martha Stothard, who was featuring that night with Charlotte Innes. Martha had forgotten her glasses, so her Geordie husband John was coming by to drop them off. When he arrived, LilBob told Martha to sit tight as he gallantly went into traffic to retrieve the spectacles. John Stothard could have stayed, but he apparently hates poetry readings, even when his wife is a featured performer.

After we were able to go inside, Martha read me a soliloquy or two from Hamlet. She’s really enjoying that work. Apparently, she’d never made the opportunity to read Shakespeare before, so a few of her friends, notably LilBob and John Perry, gave her a bunch of paperback editions of the plays. I can’t recall the publisher, but it’s the same one whose books I used to use when teaching Shakespeare at Tarbut v’Torah.

Speaking of books and Tarbut v’Torah, I wonder why Upper School Principal Laura Roth never returned my copies of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and Rule of the Bone, two outstanding books recommended in Great Books for High-School Kids. two books I had assigned for outside reading when I taught at TvT. I love those books. I miss those books. They played a large part during a fateful meeting in July 2007, so it would have been nice to have received them back after Dr. Laura had borrowed them from me. After I left Tarbut v’Torah, I swung by one day to pick them up. She hadn’t brought them back. She did ask the receptionist to take down my address. Then I received nothing in the mail. Unfortunately, this all doesn’t present Dr. Laura as the most honest, responsible person. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; my friend in Las Vegas has been waiting seven or eight years for a letter of recommendation she once promised him. But I digress.

Aside from LilBob, John Perry came to support Martha and Charlotte, as did Lorenzo, Josef Lemoine, Jaimes Palacio, Heidi Denkers, and a bunch of others I’ll get to in a second, when I discuss the readers. An American woman and her English husband wandered in off the street. Many people left after the break, after Charlotte and Martha had both read.

Greg, as is his wont, was the first open reader. Befitting the Halloween season, he read a dark poem and dressed all in black.

When Raundi K. Moore-Kondo arrived, she presented Martha a congratulatory bouquet of yellow daisies. Later, at the mic, she read her poem “First Aid,” because Martha had once mentioned she liked it. Both gestures were pretty sweet.

Some guy named Chris read third. I hadn’t seen him before.

After only three open readers, Charlotte Innes took the stage. She’s originally from England. She’s a former newspaper reporter and current schoolteacher. Her new chapbook Licking the Serpent came out in August on Finishing Line Press. I liked the poems she read. I liked the poems she read from her new chapbook. I didn’t like the idea of paying $14 for a chapbook. The quality of the poetry may be consistently amazing, and the production values may be incredible, but fourteen bucks is still pretty steep.

Some of Charlotte’s poems were surprisingly raunchy. I say “surprisingly” because her dress and demeanor were somewhat demure. Having heard Charlotte and knowing Martha, host Ben Trigg responded by calling it an “evening of filthy, filthy ladies.”

Martha Stothard began her set. Her younger daughter sat on a couch next to Greg. I kept looking over at the daughter to gauge her reactions as Martha recited heartfelt poems about her unhappy childhood, a time of sexual and physical abuse, neglect, paternal abandonment, step-parental alcoholism, and other instruments of suffering. Did her mom frequently talk about this stuff in various venues? Or was it semi-secret family laundry being aired out in the open? Hmm. Martha called herself a B.I.T.C.H. (Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Charming, and above all, Honest). I think that’s better than being cunning, underhanded, nasty, and terrible. She read a poem or two about being a cashier at Wal-Mart; she said she loves her job there. Virgos are weird.

I hadn’t gotten paid yet, so when the hat was passed, I had to dump in a bunch of coins from the change drawer of my car.

During the break, I gave Steve a hard-copy print-out of Poets’ Guide to America so he could write a blurb for it. He said giving him a hard copy made it more likely that he wouldn’t blow it off. He asked for a deadline to read and assess the manuscript. I offered the end of the year. He thought that was reasonable and noted that otherwise, he’d probably let doing it slide until summer, when the book actually came out; that would not create the optimal situation.

During my time on stage, I read “Aquarian Freakout” and “The Circular Queue.” Both poems went over well enough. People laughed a bunch at the first one. Someone, I think LilBob, called out, “Good job, John,” as I returned to my seat. That was nice. I also received props from Ben for my mention of Legos.

Graham read some of his short poems and a haiku by recent feature Ambika Talwar.

Peter Lewis read some seasonal poems, including “Merry Halloween.”

Alan/Allen/Allan read “Minor Ode to the Bajoran Resistance,” which tickled Ben’s nerd bone.

Ricki Mandeville read “Vampire Villanelle.” She said it was in response to my pantoum (“The Circular Queue”).

Aria/Arya read as a first-timer. She had just that day passed her boards, qualifying her for a master’s in physical therapy from Chapman University.

Jeanine Jarrell read a nature poem that mentioned a lot of wildflowers and other plants.

Zade/Zaid was another first-timer, whose poems were rhymey, slammy and rappy.

People were nice regarding Phil Aldridge‘s uncomfortable-sounding-but-painless throat condition of unknown origin, saying he sounded like Tom Waits. Bullshit. He sounded like Peter Brady from the episode when his voice began to change. Phil is either reentering puberty and prematurely sliding into male menopause.

Eduardo compared his search for good poems around his house to the kid who digs through a pile of manure, looking for a horse. He supposed that the material he eventually ran across qualifies as “a dwarf pony.”

Ben closed out the evening with a poem about and for Martha, responding to her “Fat Girl’s Lament.”

After the reading, I chatted with Josef Lemoine, whose new marriage is going well so far and who’s trying to save up for a honeymoon. Then I went outside and told Phil all my hypotheses regarding his voice. Then I went home because it was later than usual and I had to get up at 4:30 AM to grade essays.

Notes on a Wine and Words Reading – Mari’s Wine Bar – 21 October 2011

I got in on the ground floor of what has been proposed as a regular monthly poetry reading in Downey. Last night’s event was not only the first of these readings, but the first event supported by the Downey Arts Council. Last night’s reading was held at nine PM at Mari’s Wine Bar, a very cool-looking space currently featuring the paintings and videos of Roy Anthony Shabla, whom I recognized from the audience of the slightly ill-fated August reading at Vinatero Wine Shop. Roy is apparently the co-host/co-curator of this nascent poetry series, along with John Brantingham, who, of course, was also there with his wife Ann, the guiding force behind Spout Hill Press.

Rounding out the San Gabriel contingent were Elder Zamora, Lloyd Aquino, Scott Noon Creley, Carly McKean, and some people I don’t know so well, like Brandon Davis and Analia Marinelli. Lloyd and Elder were both drinking a Belgian-style wheat beer I hadn’t tried before, so I followed their leads and gave it a whirl. I liked it. But then, I tend to like Belgian-style wheat beers. I do wish I could remember its name.

I got one of the comfy chairs up against the wall. I also made it to Mari’s in time to get one of the ten open-reading slots. Score and score.

The features were David Caddy and Ara Shirinyan, although we only heard one of them. Here’s what happened: noise. Noise, noise, noise. At first, during the open reading, there was regular traffic noise because the proprietors left the front door open. During my performance, an ambulance even raced by, siren on. As Ara Shirinyan took the stage and presented his set of politically-charged poems, the noise intruded further, closer to home, as more and more customers came in off the street and conducted lively conversations in the half of the space where the reading was not. (Unlike Vinatero, which has a separate back room conducive for quieter events, Mari’s floor plan is entirely open, aside from the narrow hallway leading to the restroom and back door.) By the time it was David Caddy’s turn to read, the room was so noisy that he decided not to go on. Given that his poems are often on the quiet, thoughtful side, David felt it would not be “appropriate” to belt them out above the roar of the crowd. This was disappointing, but I see his point.

Before the event went slightly pear-shaped, I read “Scenes from the Picnic” and “Cryptofascist Interlude.” That one woman read a whole five poems, so I probably could have squeezed in a third one myself, but that’s alright. I received healthy applause and a couple of people’s compliments after the reading. David Caddy, somewhat echoing Ann Brantingham after the last Valley Poets reading, praised me for my presentation; I hope he liked the content of the poems as much as my vocal projection and enunciation. It is cool that he knows me now by name.

How to avoid future noise pollution? John and Roy could find another venue, but I think the time was the issue more than the place. Friday night is typically date night, or at least the time to go out after the end of the work week and blow off steam. And nine to eleven PM is when adult-oriented businesses like Mari’s will especially see spikes in business, after everyone has had dinner, when it’s time to grab a drink and a seat and chat. And talk. And converse. And blah-blah-blah. Putting this event on a Thursday night or, even better, running it from seven to nine, may be the tinkering needed for greater success.

Grilling People on the Sacraments: “Storefront Church”

I like this prose-poem. Was this the first prose-poem I got accepted somewhere? I think so. I wrote it a day or two after “The Gospel of Darwin,” during my mellower mid-summer creative spurt in July 2009. I started sending it off in September, maybe late August, and it was accepted by Oyez Review on October 16, 2009. Someone from the journal had called me first about printing the first section of “The Gospel of Darwin,” and then recontacted me a few days later about “Storefront Church.”

The conceit behind the poem is that St. Mel’s is a combination parish and diner. The baptismal font is an unplugged ice machine. The cross is a neon light. The priests wear aprons and scrub the grill. I had a lot of fun writing the poem. Someone once called it sacrilegious, and it probably is, but it’s also sweeter and more accepting of organized religion than it could have been. It’s not an anti-religious poem, not by a long shot.

Oh, you know what’s weird? “Storefront Church” was also accepted by pacific REVIEW back on July 10, 2010, but the journal never sent me a contributor’s copy. I should email it and ask what’s up with that. Did it go out of business? Has it taken a really long time to put the latest issue together? Its website is a year or so out of date. Hmm.

I think Thin Air also wanted this poem, but it piped up too late and doesn’t mess around with previously-published work.

“Storefront Church” was the first poem I ever chose to read at a poetry reading, at the Smiley Face reading on June 21, 2011.

“Storefront Church” first appeared in Oyez Review Volume 37 (Spring 2010).

Notes on a Hump Day Reading – Gatsby Books – 19 October 2011

This month, I managed my time better. At 5:50 sharp, when class got out, I ran for the car, realized I’d forgotten my flash drive, ran back to the classroom to recover it, ran back to the car, and sped off to my first destination, Wienerschnitzel, where I got a couple of Chicago dogs and a bacon-wrapped street dog. I ate while dodging traffic, first on the 55 and then on the 22. I managed not to make a mess on my dress shirt. I remembered to chew gum to minimize the heartbreak of hot-dog breath. I found a moist towelette to wipe hot-dog juice from my hands. Everything was going well until I hit the 405 , where some zipperhead whooshing up the onramp almost hit my car. Luckily, I had finished all of my rushed dining and postprandial toiletries by then, or I might have been too distracted to brake quickly and avoid impact. I arrived at Gatsby Books at 6:41 and made the open-reading list at position #12, just after Tom Thomas.

Daniel Romo was there, which was good, since we had already arranged to borrow books from each other’s libraries. I lent him Tamara Madison’s Wild Domestic and Andrew Hudgins Shut Up, You’re Fine. He lent me David Hernandez‘  Hoodwinked and Ryan Ridge‘s Hunters and Gamblers. I’ll try to start reading them this weekend if marathon grading sessions don’t break my eyes. Daniel introduced me to Tobi Cogswell and Jeffrey Alfier, editors for San Pedro River Review, whom I had seen before at other readings and events, most recently the Beside the City of Angels poetry festival. I talked a little bit with Tobi and Daniel.

Who else, who else whose names I know? I spied with my little eye G. Murray Thomas. I saw Tom Thomas and his wife, whose first name I still can’t remember. I saw Fred Voss and Joan Jobe Smith (“J. J. Smith” last evening). I saw Ken Starks, that guy who keeps telling me he likes my stuff; I’m glad I finally got his name to stick in my head. I saw Tamara Madison and Donna Hilbert. I saw Zack Nelson Lopiccolo, flying solo without his Bank-Heavy Press partners. And, of course, I saw Anna Badua, Clint Margrave, and the usual host, Kevin Lee.

The feature was Marianne Stewart, a local poet, singer, dancer, and seventh-grade English teacher. She only has one publishing credit so far, a piece in Pearl, but I’ll bet she winds up in other places soon. Although seemingly a little nervous last evening, she’s really good and quite charismatic. She read poems about her schizophrenic uncle, about singing in jail, about being an ex-cult leader, about childhood and bellybutton-piercing.

I read “Accounting Time,” a very new piece, and “Respite,” a rather new piece. The mini-theme of my reading was how I make it through late summer, when funds are very tight. I read the poems too quickly, because they added up to about three pages (larger, 14-point font, but still…) and I wanted to beat the five-minute time limit. Still, I got some good responses during and after the reading. A couple of people praised their accessible language and themes.

Kevin Lee scared me during the reading. I guess he ran across this blog, at least the post regarding last weekend’s poetry festival. He asked me to announce its address to everyone. Now I’ll have to be super vanilla to avoid being offensive or stepping on anyone’s toes. After all, it takes time, sweat and effort to cultivate and perpetuate this aura of innocuousness that gets me through the days without anyone kicking my ass.

After the reading, I finally formally met and talked to Kevin. He alluded to having received my solo manuscript Sky Sandwiches but not having had the time to peruse it yet. Shoot. I think I forgot to talk about the fact that Poets’ Guide to America is coming out next summer on Brooklyn Arts Press; I wouldn’t mind at all getting a Hump Day reading at Gatsby Books.

After leaving Gatsby, a bunch of us went next door to…oh, crap, what’s the bar called? It used to be King Arthur’s back in days of yore… Anyway, Daniel and I had planned to grab a beer there together afterward, and then he asked whether it was okay for Ken and Zack to join us (of course!), and then Murray joined the party, and then, once inside, we discovered Tamara and Donna and Barbara (Is that her name?) already there. Soon arrived Anna, Clint, and Marianne. Shoot, I think I’m still overlooking someone. Anyway, there were a lot of people at the two tables we pushed together. Murray, Daniel and I shared a pitcher of Bass Ale, which was more delicious than expected. I had a good time hanging out with everyone, but with an 8:00 class the next morning, I couldn’t stay out too, too late.

Notes on a Smiley Face Reading – The Neighborhood Cup – 18 October 2011

The Smiley Face reading did indeed happen tonight, which is great.

I arrived early to get some dinner. I paid $13.46 for The Neighborhood Cup‘s club sandwich on wheat. It came with a little cup on fruit, but still. $13.46 for a sandwich at a cafe is too much.

As soon as I got my sandwich (and little cup of fruit), Jennifer Donnell showed up with tonight’s feature, her thirteen-year-old son Julian. (I won’t be a feature until next winter or spring, when I’m forty-two.) I ate $6.73 of my sandwich, put the rest in the car, and helped Julian move the tables and chairs into place for tonight’s reading.

John Perry appeared, as did Pat Cohee and some people I don’t know. We waited for Jaimes Palacio to arrive. Then we waited for G. Murray Thomas to arrive. Jen wondered aloud whether anyone would wait for her to arrive to start a reading, if the tables were turned. I wondered silently whether anyone would even notice I were missing before starting a reading. Wow, that sounds self-pitying. I guess I’m still bummed about a couple of things, including Julian’s beating me to the featured-reader punch.

We wrote down facts about when we were thirteen. I wrote in pen and started my sentence with the wrong words, so I just went with it and made up some nonsense about being a two-foot thirteen-year-old who used to sleep in a toy box. I also wrote down a question for the reader of the moment to answer. I always ask weird-ass questions, and Julian always happens to draw my slip of paper. That pleases me. I like messing with kids’ heads. Tonight I asked what percentage of humans can insert their entire thumbs into their nostrils.

I read “The Gospel of Darwin.” It was longer than I remembered. After I finished, I asked whether I had time for another poem. Jen asked back, “Is it a short one?” Ummm…no. I got off the stage. Someone praised me for my honesty.

Julian did really well. He recited poems. He sang. He rapped. He held our attention. I don’t really know what kind of a kid he is — I keep hearing he has a bad temper, but he always seems very nice — and I don’t know what kind of mom Jen is, but she seems to be great at nurturing his creative spirit.

Somewhere along the way, Murray offered to review Poets’ Guide to America when it comes out. That was cool to hear.

Notes on The Valley Poets Reading Series – Village Book Shop – 15 October 2011

After leaving Beside the City of Angels: A Long Beach Poetry Festival, I went home and took a nap, recharging for the next phase of the day: attending The Valley Poets Reading Series at Village Book Shop in Glendora. What I neglected to make time to do was eat dinner, so after I arrived, Lloyd Aquino and I went down the street to the candy shop to get ice cream. I ordered a single scoop of Dr. Mocha’s Hallucinogenic Prescription (coffee, caramel, almonds, ayahuasca). Lloyd paid for my ice cream, which means I now have to serve him in the afterlife.

Nobody wanted to be the first one to sign up for the open reading. I wanted to sign up and dispel the tension, but I had to make sure I went after Lloyd, since one of my poems was in quasi-response to one of his. You see, Lloyd had gotten the idea of writing an intentionally bad poem. And in mucking about with him on Facebook, I grew inspired to write one of my own, one inspired by my fictitious love of, passion for, and betrayal by Lloyd Aquino. I figured it would be a crowd-pleaser.

It was a crowd-pleaser. Both of my poems were. In addition to my intentionally bad one, “Terribly Wrongheaded Poem,” I read another very new one, “Exchange Rates,” which was partly inspired by the Glendora readings and the mountains surrounding the San Gabriel Valley. I read well and got a bunch of applause. That was cool.

Everyone read good stuff really well that evening. Besides Lloyd and me, there were Nicola San Juan, a guy who wrote a witty working-class vampire novel, Charlotte San Juan, Michaelsun Knapp, Elder Zamora, Michael Torres, K. Andrew Turner, John Brantingham, Daniel Cuesta (our alleged host for the evening), Archie Brantingham (our true host for the evening, who telepathically controlled Daniel like a puppet), Nicki/Nikki, and more! And the features, all of whom went to CSULB together for their MFAs, were uniformly great: Eric Morago was like the Barry White of poetry, smooth, polished, and romantic; Luke Salazar was fricking hilarious; and Scott Noon Creley deftly explicated coming of age in the Inland Empire. After the reading, people justifiably indulged in an orgy of mutual compliments and congratulations.

I met Dr. Denise Kaisler, a friend and former instructor of Kevin Turner, an astronomy professor who was quite taken with my Joint Lunar Defense Command t-shirt and asked how to get one for her husband. After affirming that he “has more honor than a Klingon,” she was assured that I would nominate him for candidacy in that lofty group. Due to issues of interplanetary security, I can’t offer more details than that.

And, very excellently, after the after-reading afterglow on the Village Book Shop sidewalk, most of us headed to the Brantinghams’ house for a party. I brought along a bottle of Yamazaki single-malt whisky, a thank-you gift from Phil Aldridge for giving him some help getting ready to get published. I was pleased that a lot of people liked the whisky. I was also pleased to meet some folks in addition to the features and open readers: Shannon, the loquacious editor of Carnival; Kevin Ridgeway, a fellow poet; Carly McKean, Scott Creley’s girlfriend; and Jeffrey Graessley, bearer of multiple lip rings.

Surprising fact of the night: I learned Nicola San Juan is Charlotte San Juan’s mother. “Surprising” why? 1. Nicola doesn’t look old enough to have a twenty-four-year-old daughter. Good genes, I guess. 2. Charlotte doesn’t pitch a fit about her mom coming to the same poetry readings she does. I guess Nicola is cooler than my mom was.

Once again, Daniel made a bunch of delicious homemade naan for the party-goers. Good stuff.

I mostly hung out in the dining room until I ran out of conversational partners and moved to the living room to talk to Ann, Elder, Carly, and then Lloyd. Then I noticed the clock, said my goodbyes, and went home.

I like hanging out at the Brantinghams’ place. They are good people who surround themselves with good people. Daniel is staying with them now. David Caddy will stay with them next week. Someday, we will all eat Roscoe’s fried chicken and waffles together, which is perhaps the So Cal version of “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Notes on Beside the City of Angels: A Long Beach Poetry Festival – 2nd City Council Art Gallery – 15 October 2011

I arrived early, around 9:30, having left the apartment unsure of how long it would take to get there, whether I’d get lost, and whether I’d find parking. I did find parking pretty easily, right around the corner on 4th, near no apparent street signs. Inside, the organizers were organizing. I know most of them only from a distance — Kevin Lee, Donna Hilbert, Clint Margrave, Anna Badua, Paul Tayyar — but I’ve chatted a little bit with Tamara Madison before. Anna met me at the entrance and let me know I was at the right place but the doors wouldn’t open until 10. So I wandered the neighborhood, grabbed a breakfast bar from the car, and walked down to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles to gauge its distance from the festival venue, the 2nd City Council Art Gallery.

The walls of the venue are covered in mosaics. Some were pretty cool, like the purple and cream depiction of shoes. Some seemed overpriced. I was surprised that the mosaics in general cost so much more than the very engaging artworks I saw at Exhibit [A] Gallery the previous night.

I liked the festival flyers. There were about eight different versions, each with a different poet’s offering on the back. Very neato. I resisted the urge to take a copy of each so I could have the whole collection. I got the one with G. Murray Thomas “Your Kidney Just Arrived at LAX,” which might have been my favorite Murray poem up to this point.

Aside from me, the early birds included Tom Thomas and his wife, whose name I learned and have now forgotten, a fact which is driving me crazy. It’s a pretty common name, not like Picklenesia or something. I saw John and Ann Brantingham with Daniel Cuesta and Scott Creley. Daniel had designed and executed an illustrated version of one of John Brantingham’s poems. He was going to give me a copy, but I told him to wait until that evening, so that the print wouldn’t get ruined in the meantime. (I would later forget to snag a copy that evening. Crap!) David Caddy was hanging out in the garden, recharging his batteries after a long flight from England and the initiation of a semi-whirlwind tour of Southern California. A little later, the Bank-Heavy Press crew came — Cory De Silva, Karie McNeley, and Zack Nelson Lopiccolo. I traded them a signed copy of Breach Birth for a signed copy of their second anthology, Orangutan. Now we can sell both signed texts on eBay and retire wealthy people. Or not.

Okay, so the festival performances began. Everyone did a bang-up job. Erika Ayon, who’s working on her MFA at CSU Fresno, was a new and interesting voice. She spoke about life in LA, about her family, especially about her father. John Brantingham read pieces about England and the San Gabriel Valley. Most of the poems I’d heard before, but I enjoyed hearing them again. Jeff Epley rounded out the first group with humorous, thoughtful meditations on New York, Long Beach, and more Long Beach. I recognized some of his poems, too. Whose baby was fussing in the background during his set?

The second group began with David Caddy, who read much of what I’d heard the previous night. I had bought a copy of his collection The Bunny Poems then, so I wished I’d remembered to bring it in from the car, enabling me to follow along with his recitation. Then came Mehnaz Turner, whose work really appealed to me. Erika Ayon and she are both PEN Emerging Voices Heralding the Impending Glorious Paradigm Shift, or something like that. Nice work if you can get it, I would think. G. Murray Thomas was the last of the second group. I also very much enjoyed his pieces, most of which I hadn’t heard before. I learned that his first name is George.

Lunchtime. A bunch of us, at my instigation, planned via Facebook posts on Friday to go to Roscoe’s for lunch. That was not a perfect idea, since we had only forty-five minutes for lunch, but it was still one of the closest restaurants around, so what were we to do? I led the Brantinghams, Daniel Cuesta, Mehnaz Turner, David Caddy, Erika Ayon, and the three Bank-Heavies over to the well-known soul-food place, where we discovered there’d be at least a half-hour wait for our large party. Someone else ignored Hamburger Mary’s and the sushi restaurant in order to nominate the divey Clancy’s Bar & Grill. Okay, fine. So we headed across the street to Clancy’s. The service was very slow, the Reuben was subpar, the beer was pretty good, and the company was excellent. Cory borderline-reproached me for making everyone late. Dude? Where were we supposed to eat? But hey, I do admit that I started this evolving debacle. In retrospect, since we were going to be late anyway, we should have just committed to Roscoe’s. Luckily, even some of the organizers were late returning from lunch; John flagged Kevin Lee down as they passed and let them know we’d be tardy ourselves.

I got back at, what? 2:25? I caught just the last poem or two from Charles Harper Webb, who sounded very entertaining. I’m sorry I missed most of his set. I sat on the floor against the wall and felt guilty and tired.

Who else? Who else? I watched Cassandra Love explain why swagger was a woman and discuss her Russian-Filipina childhood as the daughter of a single father. I listened to the acerbic Fred Voss discuss machine shops, Frank and Jane. I enjoyed them both, I was looking forward to Rafael Zepeda, but I was fading fast. Poor sleep habits, physical inactivity, and a heavyish lunch were catching up to me.

Off I slunk to the car at 3:00 PM, where I discovered a parking ticket for having parked there for over an hour. But where were the street signs warning me not to do so? Grr.

I can’t wait until next year. I’m going to call Roscoe’s at 11:30, place an order for pickup, and obviate the waiting nonsense. I’m going to sleep more before the event. In general, I will treat it like the awesome marathon of poetic wonderfulness that it is, and train appropriately.

Notes on After the Carnival – Exhibit [A] Gallery – 14 October 2011

Sarah Miller once again put together a good reading at Exhibit [A] Gallery, a Vayden Roi gallery, designed to convert otherwise fallow commercial property into a community and artistic space. Tonight I learned that the first hour of the event is always intentionally set aside for mingling and meeting the featured artist. I spent the time chatting with the Brantingham posse, tonight represented by John and Ann Brantingham, Daniel Cuesta, and Scott Noon Creley.

Daniel and Scott had a fucked-up story to tell. Scott works — worked — for an after-school arts program at a private academy. Daniel applied for a job there. The interview went well, but the woman who runs the place told Scott that she wouldn’t hire Daniel because he wasn’t white. After a heated argument with her, Scott quit. I hope to discover the name of this private academy so I can announce to everyone where to find a jen-yoo-wine old-school racist. For the time being, I told Scott about Carney Sandoe & Associates and Cal/West. Those companies both helped me find my jobs, back when I taught in private schools.

G. Murray Thomas was also in attendance. He was pretty quiet, as usual. When you put us two together, great conversations do not arise. But he’s still cool as hell, like Santa’s radical half-brother. A free radical.

Tonight I met Adrienne (sp?) and Sean (sp?). Adrienne is one of John Brantingham’s former students. She’s a lively pip. Her ostensible boyfriend Sean is quieter. John Brantingham and Adrienne discussed his desire to set up a creative space in and for the San Gabriel Valley. He needs a grant writer. I took a grant-writing course two years ago, because Raquel thought it would be a good idea. I hated it and did just enough work to skate by. But I still have the written materials that serve as a sort of Grant-Writing for Dummies. I’ll give John the binder tomorrow.

David Caddy was the feature, the reading series’ first “international superstar.” David hails from south-central England. He has quite the pedigree as a writer, editor, critic, and scholar. I enjoyed listening to his poems, although they’re tightly woven enough that I often let the images float in one ear and out the other, focusing largely on sensuously enjoying his accent rather than on interpreting the content. To make up for my inattention, I bought one of his books, The Bunny Poems, about a man who loses his ability to speak beyond the word “Yes.”

All night long, people kept referring to “Buckley.” They meant Michael Buckley, CSULB instructor, Sarah’s partner for After the Carnival. Every time they said “Buckley,” I turned my head to attend to what they were saying about someone to whom I’m not even related. Mike Buckley. Kate Buckley. Christopher Buckley. And finally, John F. Buckley. I am, at most, the fourth most prominent writing Buckley in Southern California.

After the After the Carnival, we walked a few blocks away to Congregation, where I had a duck sausage. I left around the time of the erotic spanking discussion, about a half-hour later. It was time to go home and spend time with Raquel.

Notes on Two Idiots Peddling Poetry – The Ugly Mug – 12 October 2011

In attendance Wednesday night at The Ugly Mug for Two Idiots Peddling Poetry were a dozen people. I think I can identify just about all of them:

  1. Ambika Talwar, the holistic-minded featured reader. She came all the way from Santa Monica at 2:30 AM Tuesday. She’d had to contend with morning classes at Cypress College, crashing at a friend’s place, and hanging out at Rutabagarz (across the street) since 3 P.M. Wednesday, five hours before the reading. Needless to say, she arrived very early and spent some time chatting with me and James Kelly. She and I made doggerel rhymes that ended in -ora (“Have you been to Bora Bora / With the woman you adore-a / Whose name is Cora…”) and talked about teaching at junior colleges. It had been so long since she was last at The Ugly Mug that she remembered someone named Jerry. But Jerry, whoever he is, doesn’t come there anymore-a. Ambika’s poetry was beautiful and centered on love and peace. I still liked it.
  2. Ben Trigg, amiable host #1
  3. Steve Ramirez, amiable host #2. Amika just met Ben that night but knew Steve from before.
  4. James Kelly. I guess he’s in grad school now. Good for him. He’s also working on writing poems that are more emotionally accessible, not his usual mode.
  5. Leigh White. We waved at each other when she arrived. Then she started painting or drawing or something.
  6. Peter Lewis. His poetry this week was less rhymed and goofy than usual. He discussed his adoration for a specific bootleg version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.”
  7. Graham. He read more of his concise, witty, bar-napkin poems.
  8. Phil Aldridge. He actually revealed his last name tonight. I had to go onstage after Phil. Crap. He read two amazing, intense poems that put mine to shame. One was on the jaded attitude one develops by being a police officer. The other was on Ben Trigg’s uncanny beard. Phil also gave me a fifth of Yamazaki whisky, a favorite brand of his, as a thanks for my providing some info on getting published. That was very cool. I think I’m going to save it for a special occasion.
  9. Eduardo. He needed to speak into the mic more directly, but from what I could make out, his three pieces were okay.
  10. Phil’s girlfriend. She was a quiet mystery.
  11. Some dude on the front sofa. He was also a quiet mystery.
  12. Me. I read “Mothworn,” “Legacy,” and “An Area Bounded by Three Surface Streets.” They were all received politely. “Mothworn” got the biggest, most audibly positive reaction, which surprised me, since it’s an earlier piece.

We read. Ambika read. We went home. Root-dee-doodle-dee-doo.