Poetry & Pizza
First Friday
7:30 pm
$5 suggested donation
(100% goes to charity)

Escape from New York Pizza
333 Bush St, San Francisco

Poetry & Pizza
By Wayman Barnes 11.4.05

Maybe I should have been paying closer attention to what was happening, but when the poet said he would be doing his “zone out pieces” he wasn't kidding. My mind was somewhere else entirely when I noticed most of the audience was walking out the door. Had I missed something? The host was still at the microphone introducing the next poet. She was standing over to the side with chapbook in hand ready to go on. The show was clearly not over. Yet, all these people were being extremely rude. Had the previous poet been bad enough to have caused this mass exodus? I couldn't bring myself to look over at him. What must it feel like to know your poetry has cleared a room? I can't imagine (and I hope I never have to find out).

Although I had not been listening to the poetry, I had been enjoying myself. The reading was called Poetry & Pizza, and, in my humble opinion, names don't get any better than that. As soon as I saw the ad I knew where I was going to be on Friday night. I figured if someone was going to go to the trouble of combining my two favorite things together, the least I could do was show up.

For some reason I imagined the reading would be at a hard-to-get-to, greasy, mom and pop pizza joint filled with finger-snapping teens doing wannabe hip-hop or “imsoanguished” diary-style poetry, but it was neither. To my surprise, it was slightly upscale. The venue was an Escape from New York pizza restaurant (nicer than all the other ones around town) in the Financial District. There was even a poem by Galway Kinnell written across one wall (“If one day it happens …”) and a jazz guitarist playing. Some of the audience members were dressed in the obligatory black and I must admit I started feeling a bit intimidated. I was afraid that I might have to actually use my brain.

The restaurant had been closed at 6 and reopened for us at 7. The admission is a five-dollar donation, which includes the reading plus all the pizza, salad, and coke you want. I later found out that all the money would be going to a charity of the Featured Poet's choice – on this night it was going to the Zen Hospice. After several servings of gourmet pizza (Potato, Pesto, and Garlic – crazy!) this reading was already an A+ in my book.

Unfortunately, the poets weren't as good as the pizza. By their own admission, they were not performers. This was evident, not so much in how they read, but in how they used the microphone. They would either hold it too close or too far away which made their voices garbled and hard to understand – never a good thing when listening to poetry.

Every reading has an off night, and, judging by the size of the crowd (the place was packed at the beginning), I am assuming this had to be one. I will certainly be going again. The fact that it is being done for charity is reason enough for me. I think it is important to support a show like that. Besides, with a reading called “Poetry & Pizza” there is always a 50/50 chance that you will like at least half of it.

*The reading on December 2nd will be an Open Mic.