Poetry Reading at the Bookstore


The cozy bookstore is space-efficient, new, used, and
antiquarian books stacked and shelved floor to ceiling.
The limited open area is crowded with attendees on folding chairs,
standing by a makeshift bar, sitting on the floor, and leaning against
bookshelves — a cross section of age groups. Two-dollar beers
and cups of wine are available.

A local poet opens the program, trendily staged in Birkenstocks,
Levi’s with the knees torn out, faded tunic top, and a
crocheted beret, slightly tilted. Her bearing projects
a loose nonchalance, pools of deep ponderance reflect from
her downcast eyes — an apt bohemian persona, well-crafted.

The young lady begins with brief post-election political comments,
lectures on the need for concern and resistance. Next she
describes the relationship with her muse and life’s movements
that inspire her. She reads from a chapbook and sheets of paper.
Some poems are word storms of unconnected themes, others are
arcane persona poems written in the voice of Saint Agatha of Sicily,
a canonized saint and martyr (231 AD/251 AD). Obligatory ums and ahs
ripple through the room as she delivers her readings in an un-cadenced,
monotone voice. The poet remarks she gets such a kick out of Agatha.

She describes her poetry as language play, a method that employs stream-
of-consciousness writing. Apparently one simply drips words on to
the page, à la a literary Jackson Pollock. The concept is that obscure,
undirected word placement, free of cohesion, if studied, may lead to the
poem’s meaning. Many of the poems are laced with gradations of foul
language (possibly a lyrical enhancement within the fringy poetry culture.)

The poet concludes by telling the indulgent listeners she doesn’t
wrestle with meaning in her poetry, is drawn to the unknown and
unknowable. She believes answers are ephemeral at best, as if
incomprehensibility is the hallmark of her poetic expression.

After a brief intermission the featured poet is introduced. A slight
woman with a wearied face, dyed black hair, tattooed arms, faded jeans,
and a politically messaged tee-shirt. She is introduced as a confessional
poet who writes about a world often caught up in conflict and chaos —
aching love, perversity, unfulfilled desires, pain, and need. All of which
she examines with free-spirited authenticity and streetwise bravado.

Apprehensive, I give up my chair to a student, order a two-dollar beer,
sidle to a spot closer to the door.

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Attending a poetry reading.