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.
- 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.
- At the beginning of the open reading, Tom read a poem by David St. John from Spillway 16.
- David Rosenfeld read two rhyming poems, one beginning “The rainbow’s out, / The rainbow shines…” and the other titled “Coffee.”
- Sean the British guy, a regular I hadn’t seen in a while, read “Big Man on Campus.”
- Paul Sandor read “I Love My Migraines.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- Michael Miller read “Meet-Up” about the dating scene.
- Tom Thomas read three short pieces, one about a pendant, “Nine Girls,” and “Hunky Dory.”
- Kevin, whom I don’t know, read “Margin of Error” and “Northern Lotus.”
- Nicole Street read “Fur Fetish.”
- Brad recited a poem from memory, a Walt-Whitman-inspired piece called “The Poet That Rides the Waves.”
- 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.
- 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.
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.