Nancy Lambert 9.18.01
Poetic License Unplugged
"No mike tonight," says Jaffe. "to keep the reading at a certain level." He opens the reading with a poem by Shel Silverstein, "Mr. Smends and Mr. Spats," just in case we have the crazy idea that terrible things in the world can stop us from loving each other through poetry.
First up: Brandon, in his white t-shirt with sweet "degenerate" literally written all over it. "The fastest thing I've learned in the aftermath of a natural tragedy," he says, "is to turn the TV off." We're off to a thoughtful evening. Mani Suri expresses it like this: "I am a pacifist filled with brutal thoughts: vengeance." Mary Cahill, remembering that "...there in the midst of it, some were met by angels," reminds us, concerning the power of terrorists, that "...our destiny is not in the hands of men like these."
But poetry has cadence, has the human voice and a body behind it, other people in the room. It rises to the occasion of grief like a child's searching question, and mere excerpts don't cut it. Is there a through-line? Do I just kind of hope there is? "The lord's awful mercy will, in time and tears, restore us," Pete Justus says. To which Alice Pero seems to reply, "...Take those solid forms you see," she says: "mud, thick parts of buildings. You fill in the answers."
Maybe the mud begets answers, or coalesces into the "stones," as Russell Salamon says, which "soften, as we look deeper into our freedom." Maybe, as Jaffe's asserts "as artists, there is one thing we do, and do incredibly well -- we create." But this doesn't stop him from asking, "If it falls, will it be heard?" He tells us, regarding the day after September 11th, "...I am afraid to sleep tonight because last night I slept like a baby, and when I woke it was a nightmare."
Hart Fisher, no stranger to personal nightmare, offers us strength: "I been seeing a lot of candles on TV," he says, "but I don't see a lot of people changing file://....I don't wanna see no poem. I just want to see one person change at a time." Next up after Hart, introducing his own rapid-fire piece of wild alliteration, David Delmonico reads from Hermann Hesse: "Outside was reality,...but here, inside, was love." Carl Stilwell (with three "l"s and not four to his name, we're reminded), finds black-comic passion in the scatological highjinks of high school bathroom graffiti, a passion taken up by Justice Brother #2, Gary, whose prayer for joy, as always, taps the wells of music, dance, and a shared bionic beat.
All this unfolding into something not a flower, but instead our opening soul. As Steve puts it next, "I walk through the miser who long since sold his soul for gold....// I walk till the day peace will replace the bomb." What do we find as we go? Linda La Rose: "I hear you, but you have no body. I taste you, but you have no flavor. I touch you, but you have no skin.../ Hold me in your arms..." because "together we hold the silence."
It's time for the featured poets. Over the next days and weeks, we all will face decisions, Larry Jaffe reminds us, and "in your own decision you will find your strength." He speaks of miracles: "All poets," he says, "are miracles to me." First featured poet is M.C. Bruce, whose work as a public defender has introduced him to the down-and-out people in this world for whom poetry is a gesture, something spoken aloud in the pain and dreams of prisoners confined to real prison cells, under real armed guard, some of them medicated for the same "mental illness" that afflicted Joan of Arc and William Blake and Vincent Van Vogh: "Occasionally we look to the mad for greatness, for art, for the disturbing familiarity of their vision," M.C. Bruce tells us. But...I can't begin to capture it here -- so I purchased his chapbook, "Clients," in order to savor these voices for myself, a tonic maybe for the huge amount of rhetoric coming via television and radio and newspaper and Internet.
Finally...Stazja. Beautiful, glowing, irreverent, and having just completed what must have been the weirdest cross-country plane trip in the world. Stazja McFadyen, whose leaping poetry loves Larry Jaffe and isn't afraid to say so. Even as Larry loves everyone here in this room. Even as we gather our wits and try to make sense of what's happened in the space of a very short week. She takes the stage, offers thanks to Larry, to us, to the world of poets of which she is a proud and grateful part. And I sit and I feel it, electricity, warmth and concern fill the room -- we will fight for this joy. We will come together and work individually because this joy means everything to us, and no terrorist, government-sponsored or otherwise, will ever take this love away.
...and there'll be more, much more to come, Larry tells us. An anthology. A series of Poets4Peace readings all around the country. I think of the wonderful organization Doctors Without Borders...could we come together and create an Artists Without Borders, as well? We need each other, need shared strength. Last night at the Zen, my heart lifted, and I know this is possible. If it's true, as Jaffe says to us, that "every poet is a miracle," then I believe with all of my heart that we must act in the world to make this true, now more than ever before.
People are already doing incredible things. Last night at the Poetic License is just one of them.
Poetic License at the Zen
Tuesdays, 8 p.m.
poems by M.C. Bruce
Swan Duckling Press, 2000
(they're also sponsoring a chapbook contest)
Two Bit Love Poems Cheap,
poetry by Stazja, 2001
You should also check out her
Map of Austin Poetry
(not limited to Texas, by far).
Also...keep reading your local calendars. Many wonderful readings around town! Get outside, make a joyful noise...
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 9.16.01
I must confess, I'm one of those artistic types who keep weird hours and an even stranger diet: I feed myself with poetry... So, where does a poetry addict go for a fill on a Saturday night? Westside, I'd say.
First, you start off with Soul Speech for dinner (at least I did), then proceed to Poets Cabin for late night snacks, and end up at Aftaglow for poetry breakfast. Aftaglow is a weekly early morning hangout for poets, spoken word artists, musicians, visual artists and other artistic types (or artist groupies) housed by Cafe Future and Gallery in Inglewood and hosted by Tovi Khali. Glowing begins officially after midnight, and lasts until 4:00 a.m. every Sunday morning. The lights are low, candles are burning on every table, drummers are drumming, DJ is spinning, poets are speaking, singers are singing, paintings and photographs are hanging from the walls, and Terence and company are making some tasty concoctions in the kitchen. All in all, a perfect late night chill-out spot. And when the closing time rolls around, people are still sitting on the sidewalk, reading poetry and talking to their new poetic friends. If you didn't know, artists are very friendly people...
So, if you are up for a poetic breakfast any given Sunday morning, stop by Cafe Future, get your fill, and tell Terence we sent you.
Glowing at the Aftaglow and raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon
Café Future and Gallery
1314 N. La Brea Ave.
This was just what I needed. I danced and danced and danced. Gary Justice and buddies were throwing down some great beats. Daniel Yaryan was playing host, very Hefneresque. Above the dance floor they had a film installation of old cartoons from the sixties. The walls were covered with Warhol and Beat posters and plastic action figures. Before I arrived, they had a poetry reading circle. I was told by several people about how great it was. One person even acted out for me a poem they had heard. There were bikers selling hotdogs for some kind of charity and all kinds of people partying outside. The venue was in an industrial area in Van Nuys, very near the airport. The last place one would expect to find such a cool happening. Gary Justice has a website, www.garyjustice.com so check it out and sign up for his mailing list. You will definitely want to go to the next Bionic Beats and dance, dance, dance.
Wayman Barnes 9.15.01