I’m behind in my notes on readings that I go to. Here’s some notes from the January meeting of Waverley Writers, a large, friendly open mike that happens in a Quaker church. The MC, Jean Chacona, introduces people in groups of three.
Willy – “remember standing… wearing sheepskin vest, wanting nothing…” Streetcorner poem. “Before there was a before.” A bit of messing with rhyme and meter. I think for a moment of the Tom Lehrer song, “The Folk Song Army.”
Ron Lang – “Middle East Politics”
Ella Rae Locke – as always, her odd use of language stands out. She will always use a 50 cent word where you’d expect sparseness of a nickel one. It’s jarring, I’m not sure it works, it struck me at first as if she took every noun and adjective, looked them up in the thesaurus, and replaced them with the longest most multi-syllabic word; and yet it charms me as part of her attempt at baroque style. “mouth to mouth resuscitation, loaded beyond recognition, and accrue malignant momentum, evolutionary editing as involuntary as wet clothes, consenting mandatory neutralizing meaningless significants awareness nuisances lay their libellousness immunity testimony reality….” That is not a direct quote but as I listened I was jotting down the Big Words. I like the effect, in fact, the more it grates on me.
Muriel – “Short Stories”. “She is afraid of him. He was afraid of her. He likes his own friends more.”
Anita Holz – “Paper making”. Competently descriptive prose paragraphs. I wonder why it’s a poem. In fact, it’s not. Would be fine as a short magazine article or memoir about an experience.
Steven Riddle – “Notes of the bird.” “My lost ghost tracks me… The egret stalks; beauty eats beauty.”
Tom Digby – Quality vs. Quality. Dammit, I can’t read my notes and I’ve forgotten the poem. Does this say “wheelmaker”?
Dude whose name I forgot. This poem was so long and simple in concept that I began to write down bits of it. “I was a bad boy. They didn’t beat the others, only me. The cycle must end. Let it end with me. No abuse from me for my boys. So I left them. I was bad. I was not a bad man. I am a good man. I have done good things. I have done bad things. Fear into strength. Pain into enlightenment. ” Okay, it was heartfelt and sincere. But it made me think of the children’s book, “Pickles the Fire Cat”. “Pickles was not a good cat. Pickles was not a bad cat. He was good and bad. He was a mixed-up cat.” I recognize the value of such therapy poems. This one was very sweet and very clear. Just not my cup of tea.
Christine Holland – “so lightly out, brief candles… Fatima at 16… he murdered her to clean their name.” Christine has been reading more political poems lately. Much more raw and painful than what she was reading a year ago.
Brucey Slama – “Merlot merlot/ low to the ground/ coy as a boy/ joy for all/ tall not small.” and an ice cream poem. “Flavors with nuts/Best, I assert/ Don’t like sorbet or sherbert.” Okay. Let’s move on.
Peter Chow – Guy who wrote that one really good, long, 100-poem, with the line I liked about bones and snow. This poem is one he wrote when he mom (recently) died, and it’s a burial poem, an acrostic on “gratitude”. He read a second poem about her in the morgue. “a quilt with eight swans over us / Plato says the swan sings… /the Sanskrit for swan/ you have a good heart, mama…”
Greg Kimura – Oh, now here’s a poet. Huzzah! “The thousand and first kiss; or, how men love”. So excellent and such a relief, I did not take any notes. I’d like to hear him feature somewhere.
David Cummings – “The last of the leaves”. Hearing David’s poems is one of the main reasons to go to Waverley. always excellent.
John Hutton – “July 4 1998”. “You are celery and I am tomato/ and somehow we embrace/as your mother / cruises by on a Harley…” Excellent! Everyone liked it, too. Hutton’s nerdy quirkiness worked well, here.
Aline S. – “in the hospital, 45 breaths per minute from the respirator/ to keep your organs pink and healthy/ later I counted/ the people at your funeral…. your urn… we can measure that too, you get smaller all the time/day by day by measured day.” Good! Very quintessentially Waverleyish.
Rob Parry announce a meeting of Bay Area Book Arts.
(Announcement deleted at poet’s request)
Someone recommends we take a look at the paintings in Books, Inc. in Mountain View.
Steve Arntson – “Helicopter dust”. Another main reason to come to Waverley. One of the best poets in the Bay Area, but almost no one seems to know it.
Me – two poems, “queen of swords” which is just 2 lines, and “this is the first morning”, a hard poem for me to read. It’s like it’s in the voice of me 15 years ago. “where is the surface of my body? organ sonorous,/ when in the wave-cold blast i shrink from touch/ the present mixes with the past and I tune out…”
Bruce Jewett – “I never get screwed by car salesman/ I never play video poker/ But I bought a war, once.” So good! Another poem on paper-making; “paper a paper-maker just made…. long after I forget my own name…” I dig Bruce’s work and his aesthetic.
(Deleted at poet’s request)
Kit bliss Jones – “girlfriend” “Life is uncertainty, so eat dessert first.” Rhyming poem.
Len Anderson – Flamenco poem. “The deeper his grief/ the … consolation… / he too was… by the turning of the earth…” Damn. I can’t read my notes, but it was a very good poem. I always enjoy Len’s poems, usually explorations of a form, and he also has a keen pen for style. I love his marvellous parody of Howl – the silicon valley version, “Beep”.
“I am always grateful for the repetition of notes; /it tells me the music will go on / after I leave the room.” Aw yeah! Tell it, Len!
Judith Bishop – Ants. “I spray hot water over the crawling dishes… ” Ants on the dishes. Suburban goddess of destruction.
Then a long story. Solstice – Native american ceremony – spirals – recovery from alcoholism. This, also, very quintessentially Waverleyish. But must it be a poem? Why not foray into memoir or “spoken word”? There’s some necessary fermentation missing, a bit frustrating to hear because it’s so close, and Judith is a good writer.
Jayne Kos – Temple… stairs… I’m sorry to Jayne but at this point I spaced out and lost the thread of attention.
Jean Chacona – “Infiltration” – love – entrails – black box – a lock, but also leaks – knowing there is no cure. Another good poem from Jean. Also, I admired her black, grey, and pink argyle sweater…
Mary Petroski – what trick of light/makes today/ different from other days?
Nelly Capra – “Job Interview in Alameda”. Scene. wait and pray. breezes. butterfly. birds. truck. workers. sun. write and wait. Oct. 31. No clouds. Here is a diary entry or blog post…
Esther Kamkar – I’m a huge fan of her work. Esther, main reason #3 to come to Waverley and if you come and she’s not there it’s a disappointment. “Simple Words”. 1. Bones A baker bakes bread/ A shoemaker makes shoes….”
Robert Parry – “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”
Carol Hankemeyer – “Red” “Red is…..” etc.
JC Watson – Excellent as always. Reason #4 to come to Waverley. I always scribble like mad when she reads. “Art is made in Death’s kitchen… the war is made up. The leaves fell again this year. ..” “Where is the tunnel? You may choose / darkness, / It’s a good friend. Doesn’t make promises, doesn’t lick at your heart…”
At some point I began thinking hard about modernismo. The private aesthetic appreciation, and retreat into self and perception. Trying to make the moment glorious. Encapsulating a moment and its depth. How many connections can it handle?
me the moment has to have infinite connections and is a nexus of possibility. You can’t wrap it up too neatly.