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.