Sluggish night tonight, in some ways. I got to The Ugly Mug at about 7:45. John Perry, Martha Stothard, LilBob and Greg Patrick were there. Samuel Rees was on a couch, as was the feature, Bonafide Rojas, the wild-haired feature, a slam mastermind, a Nuyorican poet from Red City, Mars. Leigh White arrived around the same time I did, or at least I saw her at the front counter as I paid my $3 admission. Who else came? James Kelly. Graham. Heidi Denkers and LeAnne Hunt. Mae Ramirez, Bonafide’s temporary partner in crime, AKA his personal chauffeur while he’s in California. No SGV presence. No Bonafide groupies. Not too many people I didn’t already know. I sat at a table one closer to the stage than usual; it had fun creaking moving parts that could potentially get me in trouble.
The usual rules of the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry got tweaked. Rule #1 — “One can read three poems or five minutes, whichever comes first” — remained the same. Rule #2 — “Explore your idioc”y — remained the same. But Rule #3 — “Don’t blame The Ugly Mug” — became “Do secretly blame The Ugly Mug.” I don’t know why.
On with the reading:
- Greg read “Rebel Angel [Something Something],” a lugubrious piece rich with his usual shadowy imagery and allusions.
- They first called out for “Lea” because Greg wrote down Leigh’s name wrong on the sign-up sheet. At least he was gallant for signing her up. Leigh read a David Ohlsen piece, “Skywalker Cries Wolf,” followed by her own “Golden Underwear for Everyone,” a poem inspired by “NyQuil delirium” and Mitt Romney.
- Kiril the Mad Macedonian read a parody of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” called “I Love to Get on a Bike and Go Go Go.” Then he read “The Key” (from 2005) and “Goodbye.” During the break, Martha scolded Greg for not signing her up for spot #3; this just wasn’t Greg’s night, as far as the sign-up sheet went.
- I read “Acceptance Speech” and “Organic Chemistry.” LilBob, who used to be an organic chemist, told me during the break that he liked the latter poem.
- Bonafide Rojas took the stage and then stepped off it. He wandered around a bit, eschewing the mic. He came armed with his new book, the self-published When the City Sleeps, which was a bargain at less than ten cents a page. His set included “Grand Concourse Solitude,” “Remember” (inspired by Joe Brainard), “Crimson Blood Witch” (composed of the condensing of twenty-six love sonnets), and “The Most Beautiful Day.” This was his second time in the OC, his first being in 2003. He was a good performer, comfortable in the spotlight, more than willing to chat with the audience.
- After the break, after I bought Bonafide’s book, after Mae Ramirez struggled to remember my name, after half the audience left, Graham read six haiku, the first of which replaced a syllable with a gesture, which was pretty cool.
- Cliff, a first-time reader, read “Nervous Response Mechanisms,” “Not Ready for Morning,” and “Scratchers.”
- Heidi Denkers read two pieces, a hard-hitting one about her complex, flawed father and “Branching.”
- Samuel Rees, reading off his phone for the first time, read “Luxury Liner.”
- Katarina, whom I remember from last week, read a poem the title of which I missed.
- Mae Ramirez passionately recited from memory “I’m Not a Real Mexican” and then talked about seeing Bonafide Rojas on Def Poetry Jam in tenth grade, a pivotal experience that changed her view of poetry and altered the course of her life. She read one of his poems, though she felt embarrassed to do so in front of him; fittingly, it was about teaching students poetry and about poetry’s transformative power. It was a good way to end the night.
So that was it. Small remembered miracles in a minor key.