It felt strange returning after spending three weeks away from The Ugly Mug. I felt even more awkward than usual being there, as though I’d lost some narrative thread, some link to causality. But then I got over my temporary anomie when I saw Martha Stothard inside at the bar, taking refuge from the chilly evening air. She’s a pretty good normalizing influence. Her consistent essential Marthaness helps ground flighty neurotics.
LilBob soon popped up. He was probably parking the truck. Martha mentioned politics, her screaming liberalism. LilBob called himself a Kennedy Democrat, someone whom the Democratic Party had abandoned, leaving him to vote Republican by default. or something like that. Phil and I kept our opinions to ourselves.
LilBob talked to me about iPads and about his coffee-table book combining Leigh White‘s artwork and his ekphrastic poems in response to them.
Three men appeared whom I’ve never seen in t-shirts: Greg Patrick, Jaimes Palacio, and James Kelly. James Kelly was on an A.S. Byatt kick, it seemed. She kept popping up in his conversations.
Then came Leigh White herself. I should talk to Leigh sometime. I should also go over to Alta Coffee Shop to see her paintings, which grace its walls this time of year.
LeAnne Hunt was able to show up before 9:00 PM for a change. She has been working many long-hour days for a while, apparently. She’s someone else I should talk to.
Seth arrived. So did a gallery of strangers, people whom I think came for the feature, David McIntire, and his wife Cat. I gave up my seat by the window so she could get fresher air. She totes an oxygen tank. I hope she’s okay. She looked too awake to have sleep apnea.
The open readings began:
- Greg Patrick read a Greg poem. I’m curious how they read on the page.
- Martha Stothard, “Wal-Mart cashier extraordinaire,” read “Polished to Perfection,” “Unknown” and “Misplaced Romance.”
- Jaimes Palacio read “It Was Strangely Reminiscent of a Party the Night Before” and “A Capella.”
- I had signed up for slot #4, my lucky slot, but that stinky bum Leigh White squeezed in there with a carefully applied arrow on the sign-up sheet. I was actually a little irritated. This isn’t the first time someone’s taken cuts in line ahead of me. She read “Ambushed at the Kids’ Table” and “What Do You Put in Your Basket?”
- After David McIntire read (see below), after the break (see belower), I made it onto the stage. I read “Damp Lazarus,” which went over better than expected, and “Salvation,” which generated some positive response yet didn’t seem to have the full effect I wanted. But you know what? Overall, ever since my feature November 19, I’ve been more in control, more self-assured when speaking in public. I didn’t have the whimpery nerves tonight I usually do. I actually felt slightly masterful. Cool.
- Jennifer Bradpiece, a friend of David and Cat’s, discussed a spider’s having fallen out of her cleavage earlier. Jaimes asked if she sucked backwards; there was a context to that, but you had to have been there. Jennifer read “Holding On” and another poem, the name of which I missed.
- Graham put his usual bar-napkin snippets together into a more sustained piece, a set of “serial haikus.”
- Cat McIntire read a poem about/for her husband, a poem for/about Mindy Nettifee, and “Davy Baby,” a poem for/about a total shit of an ex-lover. She was good.
- James Kelly again read poetry by Aaron Belz — “The One About the Ectoplasm and the Osteoblast” — as well as “Abstract Cows” and “Amber.” The last poem was a prose poem dedicated to Barbara Bush, whom James noted is the contemporary political figure most resembling George Washington.
- LeAnne Hunt read [title?], a haiku on diligence, a haiku on the coming Rapture which is also a knock-knock joke, and (for Jaimes’ sake) the sexy back side of a sheet of paper.
- Sheb, another visitor from the north, sitting at the table with David and Cat, read “Third Street Meditation” and “The Pigeon.”
- Chris Bliss/Chryss Bliss/Kris Blyss (I read her name on the sign-up sheet but forget how she spelled it.) read two memorized poems. They rhymed. The second was called “Hurt Less” and inspired by the Nine Inch Nails song.
- Eduardo had three short poems: “Tear Weeds,” “Inner Darkness” and [title?].
- Steve Ramirez traded the soundboard for the mic for a bit to practice for his feature Thursday night. He read Jennifer Michael Hecht’s “Please Answer All Three of the Following Essay Questions,” Anne Sexton’s “Letter Written on a Ferry While Crossing Long Island Sound,” and “Tiny Treaties” by Sherman Alexie.
Okay, finally the feature, who read between Leigh and me. This was David McIntire’s first trip behind the Orange Curtain. His usual haunts are in Redondo Beach and El Segundo, I think. He was a very nice, Mohawked, vegan anarchist in a “Fascism Sucks” t-shirt. His poems were engaging, political, perhaps a bit slammy. Many showed a fine use of phonetics and internal rhyme. I enjoyed his set quite a bit.
During the break, after David’s set, I chatted with Heidi Denkers. She recently sneezed so hard that she threw her back out. Zoinks. I told her about my first reading as a feature. She was encouraging.
After the event, people started talking about going to Denny’s. I went home, hoping to go to bed early so I could get up early and grade. (It didn’t work.) But before I left, I finally bought a copy of Don’t Blame the Ugly Mug: 10 Years of 2 Idiots Peddling Poetry. That’s something I’ve meant to do for months.