Charlotte O'Brien 9.30.04
A word to the wise: If you and your current partner have an “issue”, it's probably not a fantastic idea to take them on a date (such as a play, movie, poetry reading or story telling night) where the main focus of entertainment revolves around the same “issue”. Yes, that same “issue” the one you and your partner have been fighting about for … hmm, lets say the past three months.
For me the “issue” was articulately espoused by three male story tellers who featured at a reading devoted entirely to them telling stories about being married. These stories were in no uncertain terms, incredible. As far as I'm concerned it takes a high caliber writer to talk about something super cheesy without also being super schmaltzy. All three of these guys pulled it off with apparent ease and managed to be extremely funny, poignant and self-deprecating (because they are men and talking about marriage they get extra kudos for this last factor) at the same time.
One man (Steve Robinson) pointed out that if your girlfriend wants to drink beer and watch the football with you wearing a teddy and wielding an M 16 then the chances are that you're so impressed you need to marry her. About his first wife he also warned us about the pitfalls of five day romances, they are dreamy, romantic, sexy but liable to end in tears if you decide to get married at the end of them. He also made a point of apologizing to all committed gay couples for exhibiting such brazen disregard for the act of holy matrimony, which I personally thought was a sincere and important gesture.
The second guy (Dan Farren), whose wife was sitting in the audience made us all swoon with appreciation over the sheer unbridled love he has for his wife, which he still, somehow managed to expose without being a cornball. He apologized for being an ass most of the time and explained that if while you're having a fight with your wife and she interjects the argument to applaud you on a good comeback line then you know you've married the right gal. He also explained the secret to longevity in a relationship: grand gestures and small moments. Grand gestures being the kind that involve long convoluted planning and scheming for say, making that proposal, and small gestures being a look, an unspoken moment across a crowded room …you get the idea. As it turns out, my boyfriend and I were having a small moment of the wrong kind by the time we'd got to story #2.
As it's not likely I will ever want to watch football while I'm drinking beer and even more unlikely that I will ever start wielding an M 16, my boyfriend for the first story, for the most part remained off the hook. While I'd cringed during the first guy's own admission of commitment phobia, and glanced up at my boyfriend to see how well he was hiding the fact that he related to this, I figured heck, if he wants me to start watching football in a teddy, I don't think I'll be marring this guy anyway. By story #2 he was squirming a little. I could tell he was squirming, and I have to say that I kinda enjoyed it. I think to a degree he deserved to be squirming. It wasn't until story #3 that he started to go pale and loosen his collar.
Story #3 was really about the way guys fuck up before and during marriage and because guy #3's (Joseph Dougherty) wife was also sitting in the audience and because he knew he had made these mistakes and was suggesting other men learn by them, this piece was riotously funny. However, I was paralyzed and unable to laugh because of the pertinence with which his story related to my life. It seemed at times when he pointed a finger towards the back of the room and made suggestions, he was pointing directly at us. Perhaps, we'd been on his spy cam and he'd been taking notes. Here are just some of the things he suggested:
1. Get a job. It doesn't matter how big of a star you're going to be or how patient your spouse, in the interim get a job.
2. Do not pretend to like the (tuna casserole) if you do, you're going to have to eat it over and over and over again …for the rest of your life.
3. Proposing means that you actually have to ask the question.
4. It does not mean that you casually roll over in bed one morning and say “d'you wanna go for it or what?” It also means that you have to buy a ring.
5. Know when she's lying, for example, if she says she doesn't want a wedding, know that this means she wants a wedding.
These were just a few that caused my boyfriend's brow to perspire, but the best part of this story about the old black and white footage the writer had seen where a blimp drifted up into the air with men still holding on to the rope. Basically the decision needs to be made about when to let go of the rope, and he suggested that this is a wonderful metaphor for all aspects of life but also for knowing about a relationship when to let go, or when to hang on. In so many words he had found a far more eloquent way of saying know when to shit or get off the proverbial pot. He went on further to let us know that the way you determine whether or not to let go of the rope is by listening to silence on long car journeys. Is it the right kind of silence? Not the “I've run out of things to say to you” silence but the comfortable kind. The “I know you really, really well” kind.
All I can tell you is it was fantastic writing, and always is every time I go. Which is so refreshing to hear after sitting through hours and hours of awful poetry at poetry readings.
It was also a very quiet ride home.
Laura A. Neff 9.1.04
A Soldier's Prayer
While bombs fly through the air,
Over our heads day and night.
Whisper for us a simple prayer,
So hopes may take flight.
Pray to your God up above,
As our danger nears.
Cover us in His love,
Amidst the waiting years.
Prayers we hope to hear,
In our hearts and souls.
As day to day turns to year,
Taking its daily tolls.
Please give us the might,
Deep within our heart.
The willingness to fight,
For our nation to start.
A prayer for those lost,
Without a cause seen.
A devastating cost,
It has truly been.
Pray for us soldiers,
In the fields of war.
And always the tears,
We shed from afar.
Pray for our children,
Waiting so far away.
So we might see again,
And have something to say.
So hear this prayer,
For a soldier that may.
Have a burden to bear,
In a place far away.
Charlotte O'Brien 8.12.04
Why We Should Take Ourselves Seriously and Cover Up
A Review of the Redondo Poets Poetry Reading
There was one time when I featured at a poetry reading. In the middle of a poem, which mentioned my breasts, I happened to get hot and took my sweater off. Later, I was informed by a friend that this drew an unwanted focus upon my breasts and that it was hard to focus on my poetry after that. I suppose sort of like performance art.
I'm not saying that I have particularly attractive breasts. Big perhaps, but it's not my point. In a world where the Hilton sister's wear theirs exposed for the tabloids and every Hollywood actress wannabe is thinking about or has had a breast enlargement, in a world where the ideal Woman is the girl from the Victoria's secret catalogue, I'm just saying it's kind of hard to ignore them. It has taken me, of course, until now to realize, but I would just like to say one thing: If you have breasts and you read poetry, cover your breasts up before you read because otherwise, we won't be listening to your poetry.
Yes this goes for you young lady with the beautiful peachy skin which was so translucent we could see the pretty blue veins snaking down beneath your creamy lace top toward your areola. And you too miss "If I were interested I would have dropped my shoes when you kissed me" If you'd have dropped your shoes when you'd been reading we might have missed you perky post teen nipples protruding excitedly from beneath your too tight -no bra underneath- off the shoulder sweater ... and I won't even mention the midriff. Come to think of it, why even wear a sweater? Are we supposed to be looking at your cute little breasts with extremely hard -even when it's warm -nipples? Or are we supposed to be listening to your poetry?
One has to wonder if it really was the poem the host was trying to extract from you post set? Even my five-year-old noticed them!
Perhaps, if you really need to be noticed that bad then the answer is to take a leaf out of the residential Redondo Pagan poet's book. You could cover up your breasts and gain 40 pounds (then you wont have particularly noticeable breasts anyway) and bark like a dog between poems. Heck, do it while someone is reading. Better still, get up and storm in and out of the reading, heckle the host, read excessively profane poems and apologize later. This will all be forgiven as you are providing excellent entertainment that the scheduled featured poet did not, due to his absence (And probably couldn't have anyway as he's a boring Russian with no sense of humor and no breasts to-boot.).
Who even needs a feature anyway when you have all these beautiful breasts to gawk at over coffee? A reading one should visit for the entertainment alone. Amazingly, the quality of poetry still manages to surpass that of many other readings I for one have quietly torn my hair out over. (Which just goes to show you that poets really are insane). Besides, if you go to this reading and the poetry doesn't live up after all, you at least have something to look at.
1820 South Catalina Avenue
Wayman Barnes 8.12.04
Jim Doane bumrushed the stage! It was 8 pm and time for the weekly Redondo Poets poetry reading. Unfortunately, the Coffee Cartel was packed full of noisy teenagers and Democrats having a political meeting. Something had to be done.
Drawing on years of experience as a poetry host, Jim chose a piece he knew would clear the room. One by one, with each passing stanza, the room cleared until finally the coffeehouse was, once again, … ours. All thanks to the Artichoke Poem by Pablo Neruda.
For those of you who have never been there, the Redondo Poets at the Coffee Cartel is one of the strangest readings in the state of California – which, as my daddy from Oklahoma use to say, is saying something. Each and every time it feels like a guerilla art happening with the poets taking on the maddening crowd. Absolute craziness.
“I have some bad news and some good news.” Jim tells us. “Tonight's feature will not be here tonight. A relative of his has had a heart attack and he has to go back to Russia.” Everyone in the audience lets out a sympathetic moan. “So because of this…” Jim continues, “Tonight! EVERYONE is a feature!” The audience applauds and there is much rejoicing.
Jim then introduced the evening's first feature, FrancEyE, the bearded lady of poetry (She calls herself that, so I think it is okay for me to do so. She is a hip lady and a kick ass poet. Several people have told me that she was once married to Bukowski. I don't know if that is true, but it is a cool rumor.). In honor of the absent Russian feature she does a poem about suicide. In fact, many of the poets did depressing poems in his honor. I wondered what he would have thought if he had made it about the way we Americans had planned on welcoming him to our country with one tearjerker poem after another. He may have made a beeline back home.
Feature #2 was Charlotte O'Brien. She did her “Night Train to Krakow” for the absent Russian. Unfortunately, her boyfriend had cleaned up their apartment earlier that day and had - or so she claims - switched her pile of completed poems with a pile of older, unfinished, versions, so she had to improvise the ending – not something someone would normally want to do to a poem about the Holocaust.
Next up was Wanda Van Hoy. She promised us that she would “stick to the gloom.” And that she did.
Larry Colker, who is the co-host of the reading, followed her. Since it was Pablo Neruda's 100th birthday, he did a multimedia performance of the “Saddest Poem.” First, he played a tape of Neruda reading the poem himself in Spanish, while Larry sat down in respect. Neruda's performance reminded me of the scene in La Dolce Vita where the guy has just killed his kids and himself and his voice is being played on an old tape machine. Then Larry got up and read the poem in English. Unbeknownst to him, a woman, who had been standing in line to get a coffee in the other room, came and stood about six feet behind him and mouthed all the words to the poem as he read them. Very surreal.
After that things got even weirder. A guy named Neal got up and read a poem he had just written for his date. It was a mushy, aaaaah type of poem. When he went back to sit down, his date –Marsha, judging by the name of the poem – stood up and gave him a long, deep kiss. It wasn't half way thru the next person's poem when they went rushing out the door, off to find someplace a little cozier, no doubt.
The person they interrupted was Karen. She was doing a piece in honor of the absent Russian titled “Dead Water.” After her was David, who did the piece “The Dead are Always Gone” and Chris with a poem that ended with the line, “I strike your face.” They were followed by Larry Colker, who read a found poem about someone throwing their cat out a car window. Gruesome, gruesome stuff. That poor Russian had no idea what was in store for him.
All night long, there was an occasional bark that came from the back of the room. I thought it was a small dog. Instead, it turned out to be a young woman named Dana. When she sashayed to the stage everyone in the audience perked up. Something memorable was about to happen and no one wanted to miss it. Dana did not disappoint. After listening to a five-minute rant about penises, the five year old I was with looked at Dana and back at me then circled her ear with her finger. “Crazy,” I agreed.
All in all, I think crazy sums the evening up quite nicely. I should add that there were some really great poems to go with the madness. And that is the main reason why the Redondo Poets is one of my favorite readings. 50% good writing + 50% insanity = 100% good time. Go!
And if you ever see that Russian be sure to let him know what he missed.
1820 South Catalina Avenue
Jim Doane – The Artichoke Poem (Neruda)
FrancEYE – Might as well live (Parker); Angel (Tolliver)
Charlotte O'Brien – Night Train from Krakow; Comparing Oranges to Tomatoes
Wanda – Pandora's Mic; Insomnia
Larry Colker – Saddest Poem (Neruda)
Neal – She calls herself Marsha …
Karen – Dead Water (Bloch); Ancestors
David – The dead are always gone …; It is what it is
Chris – Las Vegas Summer Nights …; Renegade; About Face
Larry Colker – 110 N; Poetry (Neruda)
Gitano – Advice to an Unborn Baby Boy; Self Indulging Bastard with Angel Wings; My Beef with Society
Dana – Tarot; The Penis Monologue; Shakespearean Sonnet
Erin - ?; I didn't drop my shoes; Remember When
Jill – Destiny
Dottie – Black Absorbs; Hand Poem
Larry Colker – Ambivalence
Marie – Scorching Sun
Wanda – Waiting for El Nino
FrancEYE – Misanthropy
Wayman Barnes – I Like Chicken
David – Ode to my Favorite Blues Singers
Charlotte O'Brien – November's Crescent
Chris – Rational
Dana – A Tribute to William Carlos Williams
Erin – I know that it is ending
Jill – Destiny
Exquisite Corpse Poem
Jim Doane – IPO Poem
Christopher Briggs 8.12.04
about your face
something about your face
take it down
i take it lying down
i take it lying face down
i stand it
i cant stand it
i cant stand it anymore
stroke your face
i stroke your face
i stroke your face off
stand down lying face
i strike your face off
Corey Mesler 8.11.04
“Do you know what it feels like to have every joint in your body hurt, Goddammit?”
I eat a cold verb for breakfast.
The afternoons are webby with
sleepiness and headclouds.
At night I wake to pee at all hours;
white evanescences glinting
off the bedroom doors.
I scrape my bones against the terms
of love. And on and on
death sits beside me like a tired commuter.
His newspaper is days old.
In The Deep of You and Me
“I got a chip on my shoulder that's bigger than my feet.”
Uptight like a leak
from the easychair and
blazing face still pinned
to the wall.
I used to love you.
I got used to loving you.
I used you.
The reasons are diverse
I uncoil slowly. In the
when the sun sinks like a
slaughtered beast headless
I enjoy your memory.
It's a way out of the labyrinth
I love your memory,
twisted as it is, and all wound round
The Time of the Angels
They lit on wires,
they lit on eaves.
They came at night—
so few of us were ready.
Even the coming of
light we perceived as faltering.
We did not get our own
changed with the swiftness
We woke and they were
That's all we know.
Forgive us our very human
unused to magic, to salvation.
A calm that begins in my stomach,
like a blush.
How I know I can go on, go out.
One prays for such, one knows not to
count on it.
The calm is elusive, like a suncat. It is
the visitor one
falls in love with, slowly, like dying,
a little like dying.
Corey Mesler has published prose and/or poetry in Rattle, In Posse Review, Re)verb, StorySouth, Canopic Jar, Contrary, Pindeldyboz, Mitochondria, Mars Hill Review, 13th Warrior Review, Pikeville Review, Arkansas Review, Stirring, Red River Review, Center, Small Press Review, Jabberwock Review, Orchid, Quick Fiction, Timber Creek Review, Green Egg, Poetry Motel, Raintown Review, Potomac Review, Poetry Super Highway, Big Muddy, Slant, Wilmington Blues, Drought, Rockhurst Review, Wavelength, Lilliput Review, Pearl, Ducts Lucid Moon, Sunny Outside, Fish Drum, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Mid-American Poetry Review, Midday Moon, Turnrow, Dust, Cherotic Revolutionary, Cotyledon, Buckle &, Iodine, Snakeskin (England), Flashpoint, Freewheelin' (England), Pitchfork, Anthology, Poet Lore, Spillway, The Pegasus Review, Reverb, Kimera, Thema, Kumquat Meringue, Lonzie's Fried Chicken, Both Sides Now, Electric Acorn (Dublin), Razor Wire, Gin Bender, Blue Unicorn, Black Dirt, The Spirit that Moves Us, Wind, Red Rock Review, Art Times, Concrete Wolf, Memphis Magazine, Rhino, Visions International, others. He has a chapbook of poems, Piecework, from the Wing and a Wheel Press. He has work in the anthologies Full Court: A Literary Anthology of Basketball (Breakaway Books), Pocket Parenting Poetry Guide (Pudding Press), Intimate Kisses: The Poetry of Sexual Pleasure (New World Press) and Smashing Icons (Curious Rooms).
He won the Moonfire Poetry Chapbook Competition 2003 and his chapbook, Chin-Chin in Eden, has just been published by Still Waters Press. Another chapbook, Dark on Purpose, is set to appear from Little Poem Press in 2004. One of his short stories was chosen for the 2002 edition of New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, edited by Shannon Ravenel. His novel-in-dialogue, Talk, was published by Livingston Press in 2002. Raves from Lee Smith, Robert Olen Butler, Steve Stern, Debra Spark, Suzanne Kingsbury, Frederick Barthelme and John Grisham. His forthcoming novel, We are Billion-Year-Old Carbon, is also from Livingston Press. And a forthcoming book of stories, The Booksellers' Beautiful Daughter, is from Neshui Press. He has been a book reviewer (for The Commercial Appeal, BookPage, The Memphis Flyer), fiction editor, university press sales rep, grant committee judge, father and son. With his wife he owns Burke's Book Store, one of the country's oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores.