Notes on a Tebot Bach Reading – Goldenwest College – 30 March 2012

I got to Goldenwest College early enough tonight that the tables in the room still needed tablecloths and Tebot Bach flyers. I helped out a tiny bit, but others seemed to have everything already in hand.

Tonight’s feature was Peggy Dobreer, who arrived with Brendan Constantine. Also in attendance were a rather short woman (Robbi Nester), a rather tall man (Brad), Brad’s wife Patty, Tebot Bach luminaries Mifanwy Kaiser and Tom Thomas, Moon Tide Press‘ editorial team of Michael Miller and Ricki Mandeville, John and Ann Brantingham, Nicole Street, and a passel of regulars whose web addresses I don’t know.

Michael Miller introduced Peggy, whose first full-length collection, In the Lake of Your Bones, hit the world just last week. They had first met at the Small Book Festival (Small Press Book Fair?) in Santa Monica, an event which Peggy tended to help organize. He read a couple of blurbs by Douglas Richardson and James Ragan before calling her to the podium.

  1. The reading began with Peggy’s feature, during which she provided a lot of explanation and context. She praised the collaborative spirit involved in preparing her book with Moon Tide Press, then launched into “Persuasions Lullaby,” which speaks of “The braiding of two songs.” She dedicated the next poem, “The Lungs of My Planet,” to Ricki. She read “Southbound” and a piece written on the theme of “the games people play” — a villanelle titled “In the Lion’s Mouth.” She thanked Richard Garcia for his blurb, which didn’t make it to the back of the book, and read “The Undifferentiated Aesthetic Continuum,” about the ideas in a textbook she devoured in earlier days. Then she read “First Love,” about her first love, dance (“The rhythm of my blood / beats along the river of my being.”) She dedicated the next poem, “Misguided Prosthetics,” to Richard Garcia, in whose workshop she wrote it. She asked Michael if she could read two poems that didn’t make it into the book; he joked, “No.” The first of these, “Somniloquy,” is about talking in one’s sleep. (Apparently, Peggy has even driven in her sleep before.) The second unincluded piece was the poem that got Peggy into writing, “What I’ve Learned of Love.” During an artistic extravaganza, Carl Anderson, who played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar for twenty-five years, who was her singing teacher, heard her reciting this poem, which she had been assigned to write, and said “This is your next thing.” After she hurt her back and needed a new creative outlet, she made his prophecy a reality. After this interlude, Peggy moved back into the book’s poems, reading “Que Esta Queimando?” (“What is Burning?”) and her favorite one in the book, “Full Frontal.” “Oh, India” and “Aubade” came next, followed by “Backwards,” a poem about the denouement of a love affair. Peggy moved on to “When Paint Hits Canvas,” a poem that she didn’t used to like that much but now is starting to really love. Finally, she read “Fledgling Humans We,” the poem containing the line from which her book’s title was taken.
  2. At the beginning of the open reading, Tom read a poem by David St. John from Spillway 16.
  3. David Rosenfeld read two rhyming poems, one beginning “The rainbow’s out, / The rainbow shines…” and the other titled “Coffee.”
  4. Sean the British guy, a regular I hadn’t seen in a while, read “Big Man on Campus.”
  5. Paul Sandor read “I Love My Migraines.”
  6. Robbi Nestor read three short poems from her new chapbook Balance (White Violet Press), all named after different yoga positions. I don’t know Sanskrit, so I couldn’t transcribe the titles accurately, but the first one was subtitled “Headstand 1″ and the last “The Plow.”
  7. I read “Green Arthur” and “Hometown Expatriate.” I read them pretty clearly but much too quickly. I was worried I wouldn’t get through both of them before Mifanwy cut me off.
  8. Michael Miller read “Meet-Up” about the dating scene.
  9. Tom Thomas read three short pieces, one about a pendant, “Nine Girls,” and “Hunky Dory.”
  10. Kevin, whom I don’t know, read “Margin of Error” and “Northern Lotus.”
  11. Nicole Street read “Fur Fetish.”
  12. Brad recited a poem from memory, a Walt-Whitman-inspired piece called “The Poet That Rides the Waves.”
  13. Margarita, a South American woman, read “Éramos” (“We Were”), first in English, then in Spanish, and finally, at Mifanwy’s request, more slowly in Spanish.
  14. Brendan Constantine read “Kink” and a poem beginning “My favorite story is this one…”

After everyone had finished, Mifanwy gave a shout-out to Brad and Patty, two supervolunteers who had dropped off the radar for a while.

Oh, and hey! Murray made it! He had had to work at Barnes & Noble until nine PM, but kindly swung by afterward. As a bonus, he brought along copies of the April Poetix calendars.

I wanted to buy Peggy’s book, but I had no cash, so Tom Thomas bought it for me.  Now I owe him $15. I hate owing people money, but I wanted to get my hands on a copy for Peggy to sign, which I did and she did. She even stamped it for me, a red stamp of the Chinese symbol for longevity.

I wonder if Tom takes PayPal.

Notes on a Bank-Heavy Variety Show – Gatsby Books – 29 March 2012

I forgot my pajamas. I wore them all day yesterday, since I didn’t work. But then I ran some errands, came home, forgot to change back, and drove to Gatsby Books, where I found Zack Nelson Lopiccolo and Karie McNeley of Bank Heavy Press in their own pajamas. I was especially impressed by Zack’s full-body, footsied ensemble, although Karie’s sheep-patterned shirt was striking, too. Cory DeSilva, the third Bank-Heavy publisher, was still up in Redding, but Zack’s uncle and grandma came to watch the proceedings. Actually, Zack and Karie did bring along a minute, wind-up robo-Cory.

Before we got started, store owner Sean Moor asked us to write down something creative on a slip of paper and place it into a large envelope. Around and around the slips and envelope went, nobody peeking at what the others had written.

  1. Tonight’s first reader was Jefferson Carter, whom I had just seen featured at The Ugly Mug the previous evening. He read four poems that he hadn’t read during his feature. I was so pleased by this fact and by the poems themselves that I forgot to write down their titles. He was accompanied by a woman who worked at Los Angeles Southwest College, who would continue to have much to say throughout the reading. [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front]
  2. Anna Badua read “The Executioner’s Prose” and “First.”
  3. Noel, whom [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] I don’t know, read “Eating Chicken McNuggets and Fries Beside [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] the I-95 in North Carolina,” “I Like Myself,” and “Porcelain.” [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front]
  4. I read “Another Epiphany Missed on a Road Near Damascus, [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Oregon” and “Fairy Tale.”
  5. A student named Brian Anh read [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] “Legendary Super Saiyan” about getting hit by a car. The [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] title is a Dragonball Z reference.
  6. Bethany Grace Lomas, Zack’s [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] cousin, was the first feature. She played four songs on [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] the guitar, none of which seemed to have titles. She [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] had had a bad day — she had been stuck in [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] traffic for an hour, her car broke down, her tuner [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] broke — but she seemed to maintain a positive attitude during [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] her set. Her first song was written about and in [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] San Francisco. Her second song was also new. Her third [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] piece was a little love song about having a low-maintenance [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], “sweat pants and hot chocolate” love affair. Her last song [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], a very new one, was allegedly still unfinished but still [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] sounded pretty good. Her voice has an appealingly creaky quality [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front].
  7. Clint Margrave, the second feature, began with “Too, Too Many.” [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Then he read “If Lovers Were Books” and “The First [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Time Books Saved My Life,” followed by “Timeline” and a [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] poem I think was called “Joseph Maria Suberec Saint Peter [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] (1992).” I had heard him read the next two poems [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] before — “The Famous Atheist” (about Christopher Hitchens) and “Any Resemblance [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental.” He continued [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] on with “Luke” and “In Our Twenties.” He sat down [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], but then his wife, Anna Badua, coaxed him into taking [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] the spotlight once more, since he had semi-promised to play [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] the guitar. So Clint borrowed Bethany’s guitar and performed a [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] cover of The Wonder Stuff‘s “Maybe.”
  8. Linda Delmont read “Jumbo [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Soft” and “Strike.”
  9. Luke Salazar read “I Promised Myself I’d Only Write One Bitter Divorce Poem, and This Is It” [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], plus “Word for Windows Saved My Life” and “Identity.”
  10. Sean [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Moor read a poem, “Long Beach Gangs,” from Eric Donald’s [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] book Transatlantic Traveler, which I believe is still available at [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Gatsby Books for only fifty cents.
  11. Nicole Street read “Breasts [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Undercover” and “Allusion.”
  12. Zack read Rob Sturma’s poem “Doing It [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] All Wrong: An Owner’s Manual” and Robert Wynne’s “The Stethoscope [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] Moth.” Both pieces came from Bank Heavy Press’ newest collection [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], Avoid Ninja Stars.
  13. Karie read Rebecca Rodriguez’s “Disco Strut” and [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] her own “Chinese Food: the Enlightenment.”
  14. For a change, Will [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] eschewed mimicking people with autism. He placed a Jesus action [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] figure on the chair behind him, urged us to imitate [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] his choked gargling shriek, gave a few more choked gargling [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] shrieks, then provided an animated recitation of a poem apparently [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] about parents and apocalypse, using a briefcase as his main [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] prop. He then left abruptly through the front door. Basically [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front], Will is the Andy Kaufman of Gatsby Books poetry readings. [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front]
  15. Alisha Attella, Gatsby’s other owner, took the slips Sean had [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] collected earlier and taped them to a light orange poster [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] board as she provided a monologue about crowd-sourcing and various [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] theories regarding the significance of 2012. After she had finished [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] her taping and talking, she displayed and read the group [loud whispers, sometimes as loud as the person performing up front] poem we had unwittingly collaborated in making.

After the reading, a time when it is not rude to hold an audible conversation, I chatted with Zack and Karie a bit. But I had to get back home to discuss a few matters with Raquel, so I didn’t stick around too long.

Notes on Two Idiots Peddling Poetry – The Ugly Mug – 28 March 2012

Once again, I ate food fresh from the microwave of Phil, owner of The Ugly Mug. Tonight was consecrated with a plate filled with a pork tamale and nachos. Not everyone agreed with my culinary choice, but I seem to be surviving.

Robert “LilBob” Lanphar was present, but Martha Stothard was not, having been taken to the emergency room with chest pains. I hope Martha’s okay. Also in attendance were Heather Love, Heidi Denkers, LeAnne Hunt, people I’ll mention later, and various strangers who arrived for the features, various strangers who skewed the crowd toward a more mature demographic than usual.

Some of these strangers were sitting at my usual table, so I sat beneath the neon sign. Sometimes I could hear it hum like a power line. Sometimes I couldn’t. I was more worried about the time when I couldn’t hear the sign hum, when the radiation may have finished entering my brain.

I dreamed of incandescent red sheep last night. Humming, incandescent red sheep. That’s why I’m once again awake in the middle of the night, updating a blog, transcribing who read what when.

  1. Ben began the reading with a poem from Peggy Dobreer‘s new book, In the Lake of Your Bones. Maybe I’ll buy it Friday.
  2. Seth read “Is It Me?,” “Gravity,” and “Candy Mountain.”
  3. Carrie, Steve Ramirez’s sweetheart, read two pieces that grew out of writing exercises she’d been assigned: “Pooping with Abraham Lincoln” and “A Mother’s Curse.”
  4. Leigh White read “Are You Dead Inside, Like Me?”
  5. The first feature was Ruth Bavetta. She has been published in many places; Google her name and see. She read many poems tonight. Her first two was inspired by her mother, as many of her poems are: “Cold-Pressed Extroversion” and “Dementia.” Those were followed by “Elegy for My 1958 Volkswagen” and “Sewing Lessons,” the latter poem dedicated to her father’s two sisters, Rosalie and Catherine. She read “Memories Suspended by Filaments” in the voice of assemblage artist Joseph Cornell. Both “Disorder” and “Between Two Poles” were sadly inspired by another, unnamed relative. She dedicated her piece “Wishing” to all of us who live live dominated by shoulds and have tos instead of want tos. Then came “Trouble.” I missed the title of the next poem, but it began with the line “Let there always be the bright juice of oranges…” The poem after that addressed conversations Ruth and her mother have had about the different ways her mom could commit suicide; ultimately, she doesn’t want to be killed by bears. After hearing “Duet for a Single Voice,” I missed the title of the next poem, which began “Of woodsmoke and oranges…” (If the poem discussed oranges, I couldn’t grasp the title, it seems.) Finally, she read “Ode to Sardines” (inspired by Pablo Neruda’s odes to quotidian objects) and “Addictions.”
  6. The next feature came from Arizona, where he had been the director of the writing program at Pima Community College in Tucson. He read a lot of poems, too. Jefferson Carter started with “Best” and a pet poem, “Thunder.” He moved on to “Mirror Box” and “There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question,” which was dedicated to his right-wing brother, with whom Jefferson hasn’t spoken in fifteen years. He read “Elavil” about Elavil, an early antidepressant, and a poem about his own invented religion, the title of which I’m sure I’ve somehow misspelled: “The First Saltist Church of Tariq, Our Lord.” He read “Amulet” about a cat’s tooth, “Like” about like, and “King Onela’s Dog” about a minor charcater in Beowulf. “Kill Data” grew out of his environmental work, while “Momento Mori” discussed old people. He followed those with “Please,” “Blame Sutra,” and “Biligana Dream (for Sherman Bitsui).” (Biligana is the Navajo word for a white person; it means “one with whom I struggle.”) His last poem was “Helen.”
  7. During the break, newbie Nicole passed the hat, I bought Jefferson Carter’s latest book My Kind of Animal, and I talked to Graham and Heidi Denkers. Graham does legal work for a health-care company, and thus has been going a bit insane trying to plan strategy and write contracts while the United States Supreme Court ponders Obamacare. Heidi has a new part-time job with, I think, a wedding planner. Something wedding-related. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, good luck, until Ben kicked off the second half with another Peggy Dobreer poem.
  8. I read “Exodus” and “Envy.” I think I did okay. A lot of people left right around this time, but not necessarily because of me.
  9. Graham read five fine haiku.
  10. Daniel Romo read “Stickball (for Jerry),” “Donating Lamps to UNICEF,” and “IKEA Melina Roman Blind Recall.”
  11. Toren read “Upon Seeing an Old Friend Once Thought Dead,” “Upon Spending the Night with an Old Friend Once Thought Dead,” and “Upon Waking in the Morning with an Old Friend Once Thought Dead.” He thought his friend was dead. But he’s not.
  12. Michael Cantin read a piece that began “I wrote this poem during the reading…,” as well as “Android How” and “To Yearn.”
  13. Eduardo read three pieces that I think were all untitled.
  14. Nicole, who was reading for the first time anywhere, read “Gardening with H. G. Wells” (the result of the first exercise Carrie mentioned earlier) and “From the Ocean to the Breeze.”
  15. Steve Ramirez read an untitled piece of flash fiction about an arsonist. It begins “He sat on the couch, hands folded in his lap.” Then he read “The Ghost of Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius, Addresses His Murderer at the Wake.”

And then it was over. I hung around a tiny bit, chatting briefly with LeAnne, but then got antsy and bailed. Outside, LilBob told me about Martha’s medical emergency, so I’m once again sending positive thoughts her way.

Notes on a Redondo Poets Reading – Coffee Cartel – 27 March 2012

Ugh, foo. I just woke up on the couch with the chorus of Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly” racing through my head. I’m taking that as an obvious sign that I need to update this blog.

I got to Coffee Cartel a little earlier than last week, only to run into Greg Patrick. I’ve only ever seen him at venues in northeast Orange County, but I guess I’m not the only person in Southern California with a car.

Once again, Larry Colker was away. Once again, the baristas were a lively bunch, interrupting the proceedings more often than the blender.

I found a seat with Tobi Cogswell and Jeffrey C. Alfier at the Tobi-and-Jeff table. They gave me a copy of the latest San Pedro River Review (Volume 4, Number 1), because that’s how those wonderful, generous people roll. I recognize some of the names in the table of contents.

Jim Doane, tonight’s solo host, picked one of the poems from San Pedro River Review to open the event: Kenneth Pobo’s “Missing Sidewalks.”

Die Liste:

  1. Richard, unknown to me but a familiar face to others, read “Great Jobs” and “The Rhythm of the Blender.”
  2. Alexis, a first-time participant, read “Spark.”
  3. Christian Marlowe, another first-timer, recited a poem from memory.
  4. Robinson, yet another first-timer, read his attempt at a scientifically plausible, time-traveling love poem.
  5. Tobi read “Applewood Bridge in August” and “Two Gentlemen Discussing Beauty by Mail.”
  6. I read “Frustration” and “Sales Pitch.” I think I did pretty well. The first one might have been a bit shaky.
  7. Wanda VanHoy Smith read “Whistler’s Mother Never Wore Levis” and “What’s Allowed Aloud.”
  8. Greg read a piece that may have had a title, but I missed it. He usually utters the title quickly in his Irish accent and then jumps right into the poem.
  9. After a rambling introduction by Jim, feature Adrian Wyatt took the mic. She began her set with “I Get It Now.” She then moved into “The Astronomer,” her own take on a scientifically plausible, time-traveling love poem. (Apparently, she’s old friends with the aforementioned Andy Robinson, whom she hadn’t seen since 2006 or so.) Her third poem was “The White Hart,” a favorite of hers, inspired by her interest in Arthurian legend. Then came her retitled zombie poem, “The Shotgun Was Just a Misunderstanding,” and the first poem she ever read out loud, “The Unicorn (for Frannie Brown).” Finally —or was it? — she read a poem written for The Encyclopedia Show, “The Biggest Blue Balls Are Never Well-Attended.”
  10. After the break, during which Jim collected money in the Poetry Chalice, the McIntires showed up, and Tobi and Jeff left me to my own devices, Jim began the second first half by asking David McIntire to pick a poem from the stack of journals Jeff left behind as party favors. David randomly selected and read “Wind” by Larry D. Thomas in New Texas; coincidentally, Jeff had very recently returned from visiting Larry D. Thomas in Texas. Synchronicity.
  11. Next, G. Murray Thomas read the oldest poem he’ll admit to writing, “Black Cobras in Florida,” in honor of all the first-timers. He followed that with “What Is This and What Is It Used For?”
  12. Gabrielle read a poem that talked about being mesmerized by technology and another one that I think was called “Carbon Dating.”
  13. Zack, tonight’s fourth first-timer, took the mic off the stand and performed two raps, one manic and one mellower.
  14. Kevin read “All the Notes Have Been Read.”
  15. Mike J. brought self-published (?) books to sell. He read a piece of fiction — I think it was fiction — and “Green Reeds.”
  16. Anthony read a poem he wrote at UC San Diego in Rae Armantrout‘s class, “#41,” which he dedicated to Frank O’Hara. He also read “Pretender” from the lofty perspective of having been born all the way back in 1990.
  17. James [Ysidro?] read two Los-Angeles-inspired poems, “Everything Is Not a Mirror” and “Traffic.”
  18. Cat McIntire read “The Lost Chord” and “My Mother’s Love.”
  19. Leslie Maryann Neal read “Driving Home from the Bar” and a piece that grew out of a strange writing exercise, “Splintering the First Person.”
  20. David McIntire read two of his own poems, “They Will Wait,” from his new chapbook Exit Wounds, and “Face Front,” which he had just written that day after reading a third of Brendan Constantine‘s new collection, Calamity Joe.

And then, unto them a lightning round was born…

  1. Leslie read “This Is a Slam Poem.”
  2. Murray read an untitled piece that will be published in Avoid Ninja Stars by Bank Heavy Press.
  3. I read “Future Lives as Much Better Ex-Popsicles.”
  4. Christian recited a poem beginning with “The patheticness of self-pity…”
  5. Zack rapped another rap.
  6. Mike J. read a poem I think was called “The Nothing Shot.”
  7. David and Cat read a poem they had written together. David had been in a foul mood, started to write a lugubrious poem, and then left it. Cat came along, decided she would countenance no such self-pity in her home, and finished his poem, answering his anguish with hope and love.
  8. James read “Incomplete Submissions.”
  9. Jim read a poem about writing about Los Angeles, employing various porn tropes.
  10. Adrian encored with “Halfway to Phoenix.”
  11. Greg wrapped things up with one of his shorter poems. As usual, I missed the title. I think the second word was “Cry.”

For a change, I didn’t have to get up early the next morning, but I still got out of there pretty quickly, just to get home before 11:30. And so I did and I did.

Notes on a Hair Club for Poets Reading – Ronnie at Number 34 – 24 March 2012

All the chairs were filled last night, even the one by the shampoo sink, but I still missed a few familiar faces. Some people might have come early to Michael Torres’ book signing in Pomona for The Beautiful Distraction. I heard that Michaelsun Knapp was sick. On the bright side, last night’s reading attracted a few new faces, like Tamara Madison and Zack Nelson Lopiccolo.

  1. The reading started with Lorine Parks, curator of the other Downey poetry reading, the one at Mari’s Wine Bar on the third Thursday of the month, also sponsored by the Downey Arts Coalition. She read a poem about Dionysus, wine bars, and poetry, framed as a press conference of sorts. That was followed by “Overheard” and the thoroughly-explained “Illusionist” about a small-time hustler named Catalina Eddy.
  2. Zack Nelson Lopiccolo read “Robin Considers a Name Change” and “Leo —  March 1.” Zack is an Aries. I forget why I know this.
  3. I thought I was #4, but curator and host John Brantingham must have pulled his name off the list. He had been written down as #3. Anyway, I read “Seven Course, No Issues” and “Elemental Truncation.” I think I managed to establish the appropriate tone for each one.
  4. Tamara Madison read “Questions for a Dying Dog” and “Eucalyptus.”
  5. Frank, whom I’ve seen here before, read “The Seven AM Bus,” dedicated to the 111. He also read “Art from Found Objects,” inspired by the Contraptions art show Roy Anthony Shablacurated back in January.
  6. Natalie Morales read “Heading Home on the 10 W,” a letter of request to the CEO of [I couldn't hear], and “Drinking Margaritas and Banging Señoritas.”
  7. Alexander Vogel read “Get Your Gun,” “I Get Cold Because I Do Not Know How to Dress Warm,” and a poem written by Steve Roggenbuck but titled by Vogel, “I Have No Idea Where Queen Latifah Could Be.”
  8. Hannah Suarez was a young first-timer whose poems arose from being bored during Algebra 2 class. She recited from memory “Poems for a Girl I Shouldn’t Love” and then read another poem with a title I may have missed. I’m not sure it had a title.
  9. Gustavo Ramirez, another first-timer, the guy who sat in the shampoo-station chair, read two untitled poems.
  10. Tonight’s first feature was lLoyd Aquino. I think this may have been the strongest set I’ve heard him perform, even without “Beat Poets” in the mix. He started with “Poem for Anywhere.” That led into “Curtains” and “Feets.” Next came “Recollected,” a poem about when he was twenty-one, the worst year of his life, written in a sestina, his favorite poetic form. He then read “Valentine Day 2012,” “Woman at a Poetry Reading at Cal State San Bernardino,” and “Shannon with Tattoos All Around Her Neck,” the last one about a woman he heard read at this year’s AWP conference in Chicago. The womanociousness continued with “Woman on a Flight from Chicago to Phoenix.” He concluded his set with “Long Day, Good Night.”
  11. Tonight’s second feature was Roy Anthony Shabla. I never knew that he had founded RipRap. His poems didn’t seem to have titles, but I tried to jot down at least the opening words. I missed the first poem — that is, I missed writing about it. It concerned roundness versus squareness. I got caught up in pondering the geometries of it all and forgot to put pen to paper. That was followed by poems beginning “There is no home but your heart…” and “The hole in my heart holds your shape…” The next poems began with “In the course of a lifetime…” and “It is not a song, but birds are chirping again…” Then came poems that claimed “I have grown weary of this life form…,” “The universe is not measured in space but in time…,” and “The physics of life is not a universal theory…” Roy’s last poem returned to the geometrical concern of his first piece, starting “A ball rolls better than a box…”

After all the readers had read, it was time for Rochambeau Thunderdome! Okay, it’s not what they call it, but they could. People nominated Frank, Lorine, and Hannah. Then the three played rock-paper-scissors to determine next month’s feature. Frank won.

Some people went to Pomona to Michael Torres’ book signing. Some people went to Roy’s house for wine and company. I went to Pomona, where we stood in a meat market of twentysomethings, no books were visible, and I couldn’t hear anything my friends said, due to the loud music. I liked the music, but I don’t dance or chat up little girls. And I wanted to buy Michael’s book. I did get a homemade Rice Krispie treat. Eventually, Grandpa Buckley and Grandpa and Grandma Brantingham would leave the young people to their high-volume socializing and take refuge at Denny’s. I don’t like Denny’s, either. I am a cranky old man.

Notes on a Hump Day Reading – Gatsby Books – 21 March 2012

Man, I got here early, like hours early. I had packed a couple of boxes of books to give to Sean and Alisha at Gatsby Books, but then got a little stir-crazy at home, so I decided to head on over instead of waiting until the middle of rush hour. I don’t live all that far away, and traffic wasn’t too terrible, so I wound up at the venue at around 5:30. What’s funny is that G. Murray Thomas and Ricki Mandeville also arrived super-early. Anyway, they left to go eat. I dropped off the books and went off to find food myself, after happily discovering Sean would give me some store credit for the books.

Eat.

Wait, wait, wait.

Wait, wait, wait.

A rather sick Kevin Lee showed up bearing cake pops. Sean and Alisha supplied wee cupcakes and cookies. More wine appeared than usual. Things were a little fancier tonight because it was the one-year anniversary of the Hump Day Readings’ being held at Gatsby Books. Huzzah and such.

  1. The reading began with Luke Salazar‘s reading “I Promised Myself I’d Only Write One Bitter Divorce Poem, and This Is It” and “Word for Windows Saved My Life.” He has a collection coming out soon on Aortic.
  2. Graham read two sensual haiku.
  3. Ken Starks read “Osa Johnson Remembered” and “The Collective Unconscious According to Homer Simpson.”
  4. I read two pieces to which I didn’t expect much reaction but which I figured deserved their moments in the sun: “Deuteronomy” and “Inheritance.” I read too fast and was too self-denigrating. So it goes.
  5. Ricki read a poem inspired by Dave Grusin‘s cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Then, inspired by Graham’s steamy pieces, she read a romantic poem beginning with “Suppose that your face were etched cloud…”
  6. Jeff Alfier read “Drifter Pushing a Cart Past Long Beach Plating Company” and “Ode to Structured Metal.”
  7. Barbara Eknoian read “Ice Skating at Hudson County Park,” about her adolescence, and “His Night Life,” about her father.
  8. Murray read “Waiting Room, Union Station, Los Angeles” and a request, “The Song of Inappropriate Desire.”
  9. Tobi Cogswell, tonight’s feature, gave me a copy of her set list ahead of time, telling me, “For you, sir, so you can actually listen.” She bookended her own works with poems by James Valvis, “Tea” and “About Your Iguana.” In-between, she read “Blue-Gray,” “The Artist,” “Poste Restante” (which she workshopped with Nick Flynn, who told her to make it darker), “Jumping the Constellations,” and five newer poems: “”The Traveler,” “Drought,” “Painting Boast at Villammare in Summer” (inspired by Jeff’s recent trip to Italy), “Applewood Bridge in August,” and “Two Gentleman Discussing Beauty by Mail.” She did well and visibly enjoyed her feature. I’m glad she had fun.
  10. I recognized the next poet, Jack, from a few of Murray’s readings at the Marina Pacifica Barnes & Noble in Long Beach. It was his first time at this reading. He read two pieces inspired by his interest in power: “Power Seekers” and “They Have More. It Means You Are Inferior. They Hate That.” It’s always interesting to get an ostensibly right-wing poet in the mix.
  11. Steve put together an interactive poem, “Manzanar 1944.” After the audience sang each line of “Our Country ‘Tis of Thee,” Steve would read a couple of lines from his poem about the WWII-era Japanese-American internment camps.
  12. Tamara Madison read “Cancer” and an ekphrastic poem inspired by Magritte’s The Lovers. I think I may have been the one to define ekphrastic for her — just a stray thought. In addiction to her poems, I liked Tamara’s paisley jacket.
  13. Hotch read “Greenwich Village” and “Mardi Gras.” The latter seemed to be dedicated to his wife. Hotch is a brave, sweet old guy; he gets sentimental and almost teary when he talks about all the love in his life. I want to be like that when I’m his age. I want to make cynical youngsters feel like callow little wimps for hiding their hearts in their linty pockets. Baring the tenderest parts of your soul can be pretty punk rock and ballsy, as seen from certain perspectives.
  14. Tom Thomas read “Chameleon” about himself and “Back Stairs” about his mother.
  15. William, another apparent newcomer, read a poem that began “It all takes place in my head…”
  16. Clifton Snider read a new poem about aging, “Flashers and Floaters,” and another new one about that big damn rock they slowly conveyed to LACMA a few weeks ago: “Rock Steady.”

Also attending — there was a pretty good turn-out — were Tobi’s son Owen, Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss, Marianne Stewart, Nicole Street, Clint Margrave, Donna Hilbert, Jeff Epley, and Zack Lopiccolo, among others. Standing-room only, woot woot, etc.

After the reading, a bunch of us went to the bar next door. I had a pint of hefeweizen. We talked about academia and the life of the heroic adjunct. One of the women at the next table ordered super-duper-chili-cheese fries but left without making much of a dent in them. To my credit, probably, I resisted the urge to scoot them closer, pretend they were mine, and ask for a to-go box.

Notes on a Redondo Poets Reading – Coffee Cartel – 20 March 2012

Larry’s back! Actually, Larry Colker might have returned earlier, but I’ve been busy featuring and attending Murray’s reading, so this was my first visit to Coffee Cartel this month. Jim Doane still handled the bulk of the hosting duties this week, adding a new rule: “Don’t blame The Ugly Mug.” Or “Blame The Ugly Mug for everything.” Jim was kinda fickle that way.

By the time I arrived and got my tea, Daniel Romo was already sitting with Jeff and Tobi at the optimally-located table, so I sat in the back with G. Murray Thomas, who introduced me to Raindog (RD Armstrong), whom I’ve wanted to meet for a while. So hey, things worked out. Raindog gave me a flyer describing some recent award-winning titles from his publishing house, Lummox Press.

On with the show…

  1. Larry offered Sharon Olds“The Clasp” as tonight’s sacrificial poem. As it fell into the volcano, tendrils of its long, dark, wavy hair wafting upward in the fierce thermals, it sighed loudly rather than screamed. The moment of its demise was beautiful albeit tragic.
  2. Daniel Romo read a prose poem in three sections: “Suburban,” “Rural,” and “Urban.”
  3. Tobi Cogswell read two poems from James Valvis‘ collection How to Say Goodbye: “About Your Iguana” and “Desperation Blues.”
  4. Jeffrey C. Alfier read “Reclaiming the Abandoned House” and “Drifter Pushing a Cart Past Long Beach Plating Company.”
  5. Gabrielle read two poems by Donald Sigler, her sister’s old boyfriend. One began “You asked me if I knew what Spring was…” The other started with “All these blocks of afternoon lift…”
  6. Raindog first read the title poem from Laurie Soriano’s collection Catalina. Then he read “The Bucket Is Suddenly Empty” for Leonard J. Cirino, a friend who died rather abruptly from liver cancer.
  7. Murray read a piece written after he decided to stop publishing Next… — “Life Is So Much Easier Now That I No Longer Know Everything.”
  8. Tonight’s feature, David Hernandez, is the author of A House Waiting for Music, Always Danger, and Hoodwinked. He teaches at University of California, Irvine and California State University, Long Beach. He messed up tonight and forgot his Post-It-ed book and new poems at home. So he read off of spare copies of his stuff. He started with “Dear Professor,” “Proof,” and “Why Maggots.” Then he read “Mosul” and “Everything I’m About to Tell You Actually Happened.” He continued with “At the Post Office,” “Retirement-Home Melee at the Salad Bar,” and “Mosh.” Considering he wanted to finish before time was up, I’m impressed he was also able to squeeze in “Housefly,” “Phantom Limb,” and “Poem Beginning with a Line from Robert Hass” without running over or rushing.
  9. During the break, I bought Hoodwinked from Hernandez and Catalina from Raindog. Tobi and Jeff had to take off, so I moved over by Daniel so I could get to the mic more easily. I got settled in time to hear the first poet of the first half, which Jim had once again scheduled to come after the second half tonight: Kevin read “Blood and Sap.”
  10. Wanda VanHoy Smith read “April Is a Painful Month” and “Joint Returns.”
  11. Madeline, who looked pretty young and might have been a newcomer, read the angst-ridden “Cheese” and “Bleach.”
  12. Peter read “Marching” and “Dear Life with Brakes.”
  13. I read just one poem, “DINK,” since it was pretty long and repetitive.
  14. Jamie, whom I would learn is opening a Vietnamese restaurant down the street, read “Cicada Cries” and “Waiting Room.”
  15. Like sands in the hourglass, these are the lightning rounds of our lives. Daniel Romo read “IKEA No-Nonsense Return policy.” Raindog read a poem from Cirino’s book The Instrument of Others: “Forty Years of Nightmares.” I read “Eating Out.” Murray read “To the Editor Whose Name Will Appear on My Next Rejection Slip.” Jamie read a poem that began, “Long, long ago, I was in love with him…,” which involved her unrequited love for a then-celibate Buddhist abbot who would later leave the monastic life for another woman. Wanda read “Ten Little Questions.” Jim read a piece starting with “She believes every soup stock needs…” and Larry wrapped up the night with David Hernandez’ “Cruel,” which kinda went along with the opening Sharon Olds poem.

Ow. Am I getting a canker sore?

Notes on The Valley Poets Reading Series – Village Book Shop – 17 March 2012

Tonight’s very special episode of The Valley Poets Reading Series began with wind, rain, and chili-cheese fries smothered in pickles and tomatoes. My pregnant pretend-daughter Adrienne Silva had asked me on Facebook, “Hey, Dad, we still on for chili cheese fries tomorrow night?” but then realized she had no access to available funds, so I tried to be a good fake father and buy my lass some junk food from The Hat as a nice surprise. Sadly, the wretched little scamp stayed home from tonight’s reading, in case folks showed up early to the baby-sex-revealing party afterward at Casa Brantingham. So the chili-cheese fries got cold in my car, which I was lucky enough to park right outside the door of Village Book Shop. It really was quite gusty and rainy.

I want some chili-cheese fries right now. And a pastrami sandwich. I used to go to The Hat all the time when I lived in Pasadena and worked at East Los Angeles College. Two locations regularly appeared on my radar.

Okay, right, poetry. Then food. But writing about poetry first.

Deborah Gould, the proprietor of Village Book Shop, made a special announcement before tonight’s reading. Like many independent booksellers, she’s in serious financial trouble. She had run into some people who would like to see her shop and her remain active, valuable presences in the local Glendora community, but she still asked us to consider buying some books tonight. That seemed reasonable.

The next announcements were happier. The San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival is now good to go in February 2013 at West Covina City Hall. And the plans for West Covina Arts, a proposed community center similar to Venice’s Beyond Baroque, are still moving forward.

Tonight’s audience skewed a little older than usual, offering more than the usual crop of young folks associated with Mt. San Antonio College. It was encouraging to see some fresh faces. But it was also pleasant to see familiar ones — Elder Zamora, Michelle Dougherty, Lance Schaina, Scott Noon Creley, Ann Brantingham, and Janelle Corbitt Alexander.

  1. I had signed up in the #4 spot on the open-reading sign-up list, but everyone else signed up below me, so I was up first. Is this the first time I’ve read first? Maybe. maybe not. Anyway, I read “Best-Selling Children’s Books According to the Salinas Scarab,” which went over much, much better than I expected — it’s a poem I think works better on the page, not read out loud. Then I read one of my newest pieces, “Bellwether,” which prompted less response than I’d hoped for, and “Brown Dwarf,” which went over as well as I’d figured. (Pretty well.)
  2. Tonight’s host, Jeffrey Graessley, who did quite a good job throughout the evening, read one of his own prose poems, “West LA Night Lights.”
  3. Barbara Levinson, one of the newcomers, read “Leaving Agra,” “Family Album,” and “After Reading Jamaica Kincaid.”
  4. Carol Sojka, another newcomer, read a piece of fiction, “Wind,” about a neighborhood fire and a missing child.
  5. Michaelsun Knapp read poems by various unidentified people, including, I think, himself: “A Proper Burial,” “A List of Things I Haven’t Mentioned and Stuff You Should Know,” and “Letters to Parents.”
  6. dANIEL cUESTA read “To a Young Poet” by a Korean poet (Kohn? Ko-In? Kone?) and a poem dedicated to the Brantinghams, “A Clue for 2-Across.”
  7. Candy Somoza, another newcomer, a retired professor from Cal State Fullerton, read a portion of her novel, Olivia Slept, about a daughter’s death and a resulting mental breakdown. Both pieces of fiction tonight, Candy’s and Carol’s, were pretty engaging. It was nice to get some well-written fiction in the mix.
  8. K. Andrew Turner, reacting to what he claimed was Deborah’s comment that his poems were quite short, wrote and delivered a longer one, “Water Drops on Paper.”
  9. Michael Torres read poems by various unidentified people, including, I think, himself: “To Whom It Does Concern,” “Knucklehead Days,” and “Window.”
  10. Jeffrey Graessley read another poem written for a class, “Title.” (I can’t remember whether it was titled “Title” or I missed hearing the name.)
  11. Sandra Hernandez read “Go Blue,” “Night Light,” and an untitled third poem.
  12. Thomas R. Thomas read a poem with a title I’ll probably minorly mess up, “These Are Things of Which I Do Not Like.” He continued with “Schrödinger’s Cat,” “Back Stairs” and “Chameleon.”
  13. Jason McGrath did not murder Jeffrey Graessley, but instead read “Goofus and Gallant Return.”
  14. Chris McMurray read for the first time, although he has attended plenty of readings before. He read “Dear Ex-Significant Other.”
  15. lLoyd Aquino read poems by various unidentified people, including, I think, himself: “Media Res” [sic], “No More Fruits,” and “There’s No Such Thing as Small Talk.”
  16. Because one of the features, Ara Shirinyan, couldn’t make it, John Brantingham stepped in. He read “On a Train from Scotland to London,” “Cafe in London,” “Westminster Abbey, March 1991,” “The Butterfly Effect,” and “God Save the Queen.” He also wrote “The Green of Sunset,” dedicated to his unborn child, but he asked Scott Creley to read it for him, to preserve his composure.
  17. Tonight’s headliner was Judy Kronenfeld, a Bronx native who taught at UC Irvine, Purdue, and UC Riverside, retiring from the last school after twenty-five years as a lecturer. She brought two books with her from which to read, Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths and Shimmer. From the former, she read “The Emperor and Empress of Ice Cream,” “Heard Melodies,” “Chrysalis,” and “Provisions.” From the latter, she read a villanelle, “First Salvo,” “In the Doctor’s Office, Two Weeks before His Death,” “Minding Desert Places: Winter—4 P.M.,” “Bless Her,” “What We Do For Each Other,” and “Fractured.” She mentioned some of her influences — Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, and William Butler Yeats.

After the reading, I bought Shimmer and Lory Bedikian‘s The Book of Lamenting, wanting to do my part to keep Deborah and Village Book Shop afloat. Then it was time to head to Casa Brantingham for uterine revelations.

The cake was blue because the baby has a penis, but his name keeps shifting and evolving. Scotch and cigars arrived after I left. Despite its being a St. Patrick’s Day with wind, wet roads, and crazy drivers, both Raquel and I made it home safely from our respective excursions. So it seems that it was a good day, a good evening, a good night.

Notes on Poetry Bleeding 3: Blood is the Life – Viento y Agua – 15 March 2012

Usually, babies have a mommy and a daddy. Sometimes, babies have two mommies or two daddies. This baby had four daddies and a mommy. Poetry Bleeding 3: Blood is the Life is the third installment of Alan Passman’s reading series. It was hosted by Eric Morago. And it was presented in part by the trio behind Bank Heavy Press, although BHP-er Cory De Silva was then in Delaware at a Christian conference

Months ago, I had heard good things about Viento y Agua Coffeehouse, Art Gallery, and Music Venue from Daniel Romo. Days ago, I had heard good things about its Mexican chocolate from, I think, Eric Morago. Both men were correct. The space is very cool, with plenty of seats, colorful art all over the walls, and a stage with a piano set off to the side. It looks to be pretty popular with the CSULB crowd; the place was filled with young, attractive strangers, as well as my youthful, attractive friends. I ordered a triple Mexican mocha, which was scrumptious and left me wired and euphoric.

Let the name-dropping commence. I got there right around the same time as Eric and G. Murray Thomas. Soon we were joined by Scott Creley, who spend these days north and east of Long Beach, helping to pull together the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival. I saw Marianne Stewart, Anna Badua, and Clint Margrave. I sat next to Karie McNeley and Zack Nelson Lopiccolo, who periodically left me to babysit their Bank Heavy Press merchandise; I didn’t do a very good job, since Eric was able to snag one of Zack’s hand-crafted bookmarks without paying a dollar. (After he learned they weren’t free, he did pay. Eric Morago is a man of honor.) Nicole Street came. So did Clifton Snider, Daniel McGinn, and Derrick Brown, although I didn’t see them until after the show.

Eric started his hostly bantering, soon calling Karie to the stage to give her spiel about upcoming Bank Heavy Press events. She was a bit shy, so Eric asked a bunch of leading questions to get the ball rolling a little faster.

Most of the scheduled readers — there was no open reading — seemed to be alumni of CSULB’s MFA program, the one I won’t be a part of this fall because it wanted to know my answer by March 9 — much too early, given my current situation. One, two, three…yeah, I think about five or six of them had CSULB MFAs. Each reader was granted five to seven minutes.

  1. The first reader was Lauren Herrera, who started with a poem from her master’s thesis, “Will o’ the Wisp.” She then read “Drug Bubbles,” which she called “an insane patchwork kind of thing,” and “Body Farm Holiday,” inspired by a childhood spent visiting California ghost towns.
  2. Scott Creley read “Two Cups of Tea Poured into the Grass” and “Why I Will Not Donate My Body to Science.” These poems were inspired by his taking the real biological information learned from his fiancée, science teacher Carly McKean, and fusing it with poetic imaginative plabbergabbery.
  3. Jessica Patapoff read “Sediment,” “Thanatophobia,” and “I’m Turning Thirty.” She said she’s been in a creative “lull” lately. I guess sometimes the fields have to lie fallow to preserve their long-term fertility.
  4. G. Murray Thomas recited from memory a poem about ahi tuna, dolphins, and giving the earth back to various animals. But not opossums. Then, on request, he read a poem from his latest book, My Kidney Just Arrived, “My Worst Job.” After that came “The Plagiarist,” a poem I’m almost sure I myself wrote, as well as the short pieces “To the Editor Whose Name Will Appear on My Next Rejection Slip” and “The Morning After.”
  5. After a short break, Zack Nelson Lopiccolo read “Quarters for Love,” a piece he cowrote with Josue Mendoza. It made me nervous, since it concerns wooing a parking-enforcement officer and I keep getting tickets in Long Beach. But I managed to keep my act together and not run out to check on my car, which turned out to be fine. Zack also read “Decisions on Layover” and “Robin, Boy Wonder.”
  6. Erica Hayes read a piece from her master’s thesis, “Her Landscape of Narratives.” She finished her set with “Moving Towards a Future” and “The Fall of Her Aria.”
  7. Clint Margrave read “How Valentines Fail,” “Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental,” and “A Poem Is Not a Teddy Bear.” He kept each of his poems in separate pockets, since one was made of matter, one of antimatter, and one of dark matter. No touchy, no boomy.
  8. Alan Passman read “I Live Like Ninja Turtles in the Sewers of Manhattan, New York, USA,” “Ode to Super Mario Brothers,” “Ruminations in a Corolla,” and “The Living Together Continuum.”
  9. Alan Passman’s identical twin brother, also named Alan Passman, began his own five-to-seven-minute set with “The Cape and Cowl Can’t Hide My Disappointment,” “Lois Always Calls Him ‘Smallville’,” “Rubber Ducky, You’re the One,” and “Conan the Barbarian and I Go Grocery Shopping,” which honestly is a great poem with which to close a reading, as it ends with victory, dead orcs, and goodbyes.

Either during the break or after the reading, I don’t recall, I finally got around to buying Murray’s book and asking him to sign it. For sure during the break, this guy I barely recognized asked me how my trip to San Francisco had been. Who the hell was he? An as-yet unknown fellow poet who ran across this blog? Nah — I eventually found out that he was Toren, who sometimes goes to the readings at The Ugly Mug, who usually sports facial hair and a nice suit and tie. Out of usual context, out of mind…

I talked to Daniel McGinn a little bit after the show, but didn’t linger, since I knew Raquel was making us dinner back at home. Daniel’s a really nice guy. I do wish I’d formally met Derrick Brown, whose long shadow cast across the local poetry scenes seems to freak a lot of people out in one way or another. But I noticed neither fangs nor hypnotic Svengaliesque eyes, so I assume he’s sufficiently human.

Notes on Two Idiots Peddling Poetry – The Ugly Mug – 14 March 2012

Every post I start to write, I want to begin with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” But it never is either. It’s usually simply normal and pretty good. I don’t know what I’m thinking.

I came to The Ugly Mug straight from work, figuring I’d pick something off Phil’s menu of microwavable goodies. I ordered peppermint tea and a chicken burrito with nachos. Phil melted cheese over the nacho chips; I liked that. A young woman at the counter reminisced about coming to The Ugly Mug as a child eight years ago or so, prompting me to kid Phil that he was a “neighborhood treasure,” prompting Phil to respond that he was more “a pot of fool’s gold.”

Who came tonight but didn’t read and thus won’t appear on the list below? Co-feature Tamara Madison brought her friend, whose name I think is Mariana. Steve Ramirez, recently MIA Poetry Idiot, returned from his convalescence. Jaimes Palacio showed up. Heather Love was there, sitting on the couch with that woman who’s been attending this last month but whose name I don’t know. (Is it Hope Alvarado?) Caterina sat in the peanut gallery, which Phil had to set up at the last minute. Oh, and I recognized Leslie and James from Redondo Poets at Coffee Cartel. They sat in the peanut gallery, too.

I sat at my now-usual table in the corner by the far window. Tonight, I was joined at the table by Jacob Slobodien, who is giving the Bank Heavy Press trio a run for their money for the Young Poetic Up-and-Comer Award. (Dude, I should totally introduce Jacob to Cory, Karie, and Zack.)

  1. Ben read yet another poem from the excellent Don’t Blame the Ugly Mug, Jane Cassady’s “Write Your Own,” which concerns horoscopes and reminded me that Ben and Tamara both share a February 2 birthday with James Joyce.
  2. Kiril the Mad Macedonian read a long poem his cat wrote in honor of Dr. Seuss’ one hundredth birthday, a pastiche of Green Eggs and Ham targeting PETA.
  3. Jacob read “Gun” by someone named Diego or El Niño.
  4. I read “Cloud Map Ceiling” and “Accounting Time.” I was a little worried that I would run out of time before finishing the second poem. After the reading, James Kelly said he liked “Accounting Time.” Then Graham said he liked “that cloud poem.” I told both of them that I would start bringing my better poems in the future, which was ungracious, self-abnegating, and dumb. What I should have said was that I liked the poems they read tonight, which I did. Silly, selfish, narcissistic me.
  5. Graham read five haiku. I especially liked the first one.
  6. James Kelly apologized for being pretentious. Then he read “Memory,” “Attenuation,” and “History Grows Inside of Us Like Seeds.” James always sounds so damn artful and erudite; he deserves a book deal.
  7. Some guy named Bill told a story about his Navy days, when he was stationed near San Francisco with a sailor named Tex, the only one in their group with a car, who really wanted to drive to the Pacific Ocean. It was a good story.
  8. Tamara Madison read “About You,” which was all about me. She moved on to “I’ve Had Tits” and “What You Know” before brushing up against the Odyssey with “Circe Plans” (involving more tits). She read “The Streak” and one of my favorites of hers, “The Norman Invasion.” Then came the animal poems, “The Owl and I” and “Tiger.” Then came a bunch of poems that explored her idiosyncratic vision of physics, cosmology, and metaphyics: “Dark Matter,” “Big Bang Theory,” “One” and “The Body of God.” I was glad that she offered us a whole buffet of poems to sample.
  9. The other feature, Robert Wynne, also gave us a lot of poems. He started with two more-or-less true poems, “After the Fair” about his mom and “1EVB559″ about his dad. He read three “jazz poems” from his book Self-Portrait as Odysseus: “Odysseus on an Overnight Flight,” “Odysseus Listens to Brad Mehldau’s Elegaic Cycle,” and “Odysseus Listens to Michael Brecker’s Pilgrimage at 32,000 Feet.”He read “Uncommon Manifesto for Charles Ardinger,” who was not in attendance tonight. Next he went through four new poems, poems about his adopted state of Texas. (Odysseus and Texas kept popping up tonight.) He read “Oatmeal, Texas,” “Palmwood by Any Other Name,” “Marlin, Texas,” and “Vacuuming Nirvana.” The title of the Rod McKuen poem that followed didn’t make it into my notes, but I did jot down the last two, from his book Museum of Parallel Art: “Dan Flavin’s The Kiss” and “Van Gogh’s Mona Lisa.”

That was it. No break, no second half. It was already getting late. I hit the ATM and prematurely withdrew next week’s allowance, so I could buy Museum of Parallel Art and have Robert Wynne sign my copy. He remembered my last name, which was nice. He wrote, “John- I enjoyed hearing you read! I hope this museum never closes. Robert Wynne.” He commented on the cheesiness of his second sentence; but, ehh, you know, it’s not so bad. Everyone else was wrapped up in conversations, so I ambled toward the exit. Then Tamara said good-bye to me, prompting me to go over to chat a little. She said “See you next week,” alluding to the Hump Day reading at Gatsby Books, but I told her I couldn’t make it because of school. Happily, on the way home, I suddenly remembered Santiago Canyon College has spring break next week, so I’ll be able to catch Tobi Cogswell‘s feature, after all. That realization supplied a good end to the night.