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Posts Tagged ‘JBs’

It pains me to say it. It could be un-PC. It could alienate me from some in the local poetry community. I might look bad. The doorkeepers who are published could shun me from their presses. Really, who reads my blog anyway? I am fairly sure this won’t reach the eyes of the poets involved in a recent reading I attended at The Elevens. But you never know. Maybe part of me hopes it does. Maybe some of the people who’ve been running things around here need to hear from some of the young upstarts (writing poetry since I was a child, am I an upstart?).

For a few months, I have been trying to learn more about my writing as well as the local poetry scene by attending local readings, ones in which others read their work as well as some open mics. Some of the formats include both—featured poets and an open mic.

I went to one last-Sunday-of-the-month Esselon reading in May, the first time I had read my work out loud since I was in my 20s.

Let’s start there, my 20s. My younger self. My scared self. My virgin reading voice. My childless womb. My full blood and tits and ass. My eyes. My hair. My voice that cracked. My hands that shook as I held the pages. Me, pre-Alexander Technique training, pre-marriage, pre-motherhood, pre-peri-menopause, pre-sobriety, pre-I lead a helluva lot of Shape Note songs on Tuesday nights in Northampton. Pre-me coming into my full power. Yes. Me, easy to give a push to and I’d fall over.

Sunday afternoon/evening, August 26, was the monthly last-Sunday Esselon reading, except that this reading was moved from Esselon to The Elevens. Confused yet? Okay, not such a big deal, a change of venue to a better space and time is probably just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s go back again to me in my 20s. Kent, Ohio. Brady’s Cafe. JB’s Down. Outdoors, walking around, a poem per outdoor spot. Fred Fuller Park. The Cuyahoga River. Coventry. Drinking. Cleveland Heights. Poets who are now dead. Obnoxious poets who drank too much. Bars bars bars. Men Men Men. A few women. Some lesbians. Me, shaking scared unsure. Bad poets. Good poets. All poets influenced by The Beats, no doubt about it. My boyfriends. My mentors. My friends. My dying father. My dead father. Intimidating men. Children running around. A child I loved and my best friend, her mother. All of that informs me today and all of it informs what I know to be right about poetry readings. These were my people.

But not really. Just part of me belonged. Still, I understood what worked and I got what I know to be right about poetry readings.

RULE NUMBER ONE: If you are one of the readers, do your damnedest to stay and hear everyone read. IF YOU ARE A FEATURED READER, this goes double, maybe even triple. Maybe even to infinity. If you can’t stay, let the people around you know. Be kind. Be courteous. Be respectful. This is not about you. This is about Poetry and every person striving to share their voice after they just sat and listened to yours.

RULE NUMBER TWO: If you announce, online (or anywhere, really) the amount of time the reading will last and how long each open mic poet gets to read, don’t change it when the poets show up. In good faith, they have put their trust in you. In good faith, they expect you, their leader and the organizer, to hold them. When you say 5-7 pm reading, 5 minute-limit for the open mic, stick to it. Do not change the time to a 3-minute, 2-poem limit because you want to be at another reading and you assume all attendees will want to be there, too. Don’t presume to read your own work if you’ve already cut everyone’s time short. You invited us. Keep the table set until everybody has gotten their portion and be sure you stay to clear the table. Kiss some ass because we just kissed yours.

Oh, also, if a reading is in a bar and you are ordering a drink? Make sure that you aren’t cutting in front of your confreres who’ve been waiting in line longer than you. Capiche? This is really the definition of Bad Form and it’s extra bad form if it is your reading series. The host or hostess drinks last.

RULE NUMBER THREE: Know each poet’s name who you are introducing. Use BOTH first and last names so the listeners can catch who the hell they are listening to. If this is your reading series and it’s time for the open mic and every featured reader was not only introduced by first and last name but also their introduction included a short bio which mentioned their published works and publishing houses as well as the fact that they have books for sale, don’t screw this part up. Naming is what poets do. Show some understanding of this.

Needless to say, I shant be attending the last Sunday Elevens readings any more.

I do like the once-a-month Tuesday Straw Dog Writers Guild readings that are held at the Elevens, at least the 2 I’ve attended.

I have been to one last-Friday-of-the-month reading at Rao’s in Amherst and I will be attending it again this coming Friday. (Spoiler Alert: I will be a featured reader (SAVE THE DATE!) in September).

I just found another poetry series which happens every Friday night, 5:30-7:30, at The Thirsty Mind in South Hadley. Can’t wait to check that out.

Of course, there’s the every Tuesday night reading series at Hinge in Northampton, but as this is my yoga and Sacred Harp singing night, it’s unlikely I will make it often. Still, I hope to clear some Tuesday evening in the near future to check it out.

This sort of leaves Mondays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays and about a hundred other venues in the Valley for me to fill with a reading of my own devising. Just like it’s high time I start my own writing workshop. You know how it is, you who flounder to be heard and seen and to define yourself both inside and against the tide.

You remember my bike n bitch tenet that there are no bad rides? Well, guess what? There are bad poetry readings.

Since the post is void of photos and is dry and boring and I know already too long, here I am. Giving the finger. Kiss my ass muthafuckacocksucka. Oh yeah.

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In 1983, I was a sophomore living in the dorms at Kent State University.

Some time that year, we got the diagnosis that my father had colon cancer. Now that I come to write about it, I realize I don’t have many details. He had surgery to remove part of the colon and when they opened him up, they found that the cancer had metastasized to the liver.

My parents were living in Sylvania, Ohio at the time.

Some time in 1984 or ’85. Our good family friends in Southfield, Michigan, lent me a giant, dark-green Ford so that I could commute back and forth from Kent to Toledo while my father was dying. I spent the summer drunk, screwing a number of non-boyfriends, dancing to reggae bands upstairs at Mother’s Junction (above Ray’s), and going to see the Numbers Band at JB’s down.

I can’t remember what job I held. I do remember the heart-wrenching misery of driving to Toledo every Friday night and returning every Sunday. The long dark road, I-80, where deer/car collisions were a regular occurrence and the tail-end of the Appalachian range flattened completely by the time you’d reach Northwest Ohio. Some damn ugly land. I remember how everything in me screamed not to go. If I didn’t go home, would he not die?

Richfield, Ohio, Kita Lyons’ property. I had written in my book that this is July 13, 1985, 2 days shy of my 23rd birthday. One of the necklaces I’m wearing belonged to my Tante Nelli, but she died in May 1986. I wonder if she gave me some jewelry earlier than I remember.

My father died in August 1985.

I decided to make my pilgrimage the following year. My mother bought me a used, silver Toyota Corolla/Tercel, a model that they made for only a short time. I think it cost 4 thousand bucks. I have no memory of how many miles it had on it. I do remember going to someone’s house to check out the car, how their driveway looked, dark black asphalt. I would pay my mother back from my aunt’s estate when I received that money. My father’s only living sister, Nelli Landau. She died 9 months after him. I know it was a broken heart, for she loved my father and had no husband or children of her own.

I decided first to drive east. I would be staying mostly in youth hostels, but also had a few connections to stay with people I’d never met. Friends of friends. I miss that spirit. I miss it.

I am not sure any more all of the places I stopped. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I stayed in a governor’s mansion because my friend’s friends were the caretakers. The wife was a New England blue blood, going back several generations. She was a fiber artist, had a studio set up in the house.

They steamed mussels we picked up fresh from a little fish shack in town. I’d never eaten mussels before. I learned what a Widow’s Walk is. I toured the rose arbor in the back yard. The wife’s name was Sydney. This is how people name their children in New England.

One night, we drove past oceanfront mansions, stopped on the damp ocean beach, got high, and watched the sunset.

I next stopped in Cherryville, Maine, the famed place of an annual blueberry harvest which gathers hippies, loafers, stoners, and other back-to-nature types for seasonal farm work. Now I realize that there must be real migrant workers who go there, not just the educated white children of middle class families.

The hostel was really an old hippie commune. My first of so many things, again. I used an ATM machine in the quaint town. I got poison ivy (sumac?) on my legs. I stood in a circle with a couple dozen other people, stoned, holding hands, swaying, singing om om om. I learned what a Clivus is and determined that some day I would have one.

Maine, Bar Harbor, a little boat trip around some of the islands where I saw seals and puffins. The first time I heard the word shoal. Acadia where I walked on some barnacled rocks for a few hours, did nothing else, and left. I met a guy at the youth hostel. I remember eating a meal, walking around the town. Saying Bah Haba like the locals over and over, laughing, tschoke shops, lobster everything everywhere. I gave him a ride to the Greyhound station in Boston. A kiss in the rain. I didn’t even like him, but he was friendly. Dark hair, not too tall.

One very clear memory is of driving on the interstate in Massachusetts and the giant granite rocks on either side, with their trees and lichen, roots, gray and yellow stains. I think of it still when we go to Boston on I-90. I remember.

I started this post thinking about every car I’ve ever owned because my 2000 Toyota mini-van is up near 160K miles and creaky.

Let’s call this Installment One of Old Girl, the story of the first half of my cross-country trip after the death of my father.

♦ ♦ ♦

Hey, I’m not saying I like this, but I went to see them live a lot back in the day. The first video is kinda shaky to start, still good to see them looking good and playing after all these years.

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