Why, thank you for asking! The Speakeasy 5 poetry reading was a delight to take part in. Even though our event was competing with a Kulshan Chorus performance, The Nutcracker ballet, and other local events last Saturday, there was a good turnout of poetry fans, for whose presence we were grateful. Afterward, all the readers agreed that the rotating format of five-minute turns worked well, providing a terrific variety of poetic styles and subjects. Here are some highlights of the evening:
- Though Luther Allen read some of the short, vivid, imagistic pieces from his 2010 book The View from Lummi Island, he devoted more of his reading to early, narrrative-based poems that he’s been revisiting recently. He concluded with a moving requiem for a troubled friend who died this year. In 2012, Luther is contemplating writing–and perhaps blogging–a poem a day based on an item in each day’s New York Times, a project in which his fellow poets heartily encouraged him over drinks after the reading. (Do it, Luther! The world needs to read them!)
- Elizabeth Colen, formerly of Bellingham and just now of Seattle, read from her new manuscript of poems about conspiracy theories. Ranging in subject from 9/11 to the JFK assassination to predictions of the apocalypse, these poems use “I” and “you” personae to enact fascinating scenes drawn from Elizabeth’s extensive research into these cultural phenomena. This new book, titled Waiting Up for the End of the World, is scheduled to be released from Jaded Ibis Press in the second half of, fittingly, 2012.
- Paul Piper read luminous poems from three of his books: Now and Then (2004), Winter Apples (2007), and Dogs & Other Poems (2011). I greatly enjoyed the wit of his dog poems, many of them spoken in the persona (canina?) of his family’s Malamute. Many of Paul’s nature pieces, set in varied landscapes in Montana, Hawaii, and British Columbia, view nature through the vivid spiritual lens of Zen Buddhism. My favorite image from the poems he read that evening was of a pomegranate’s “aggregated rubies.”
- Sheila Sondik brought the house down with her very first poem, modeled after Ginsberg’s masterpiece and titled “Howl for the Mothers.” Other favorites of mine, and of the audience, included “A Short List of New Interpretations of Our Neighbors’ Antisocial Behaviors”–which offers wry and astonishing insight into why Sheila and her husband departed their longtime home in Berkeley to move to Bellingham–and an as-yet untitled poem about a paper shredder and its output, which ends, gorgeously, with the line “Stuff a pillow with it, and tell me what you dream.”
- As for me, I am simply relieved that the audience laughed in places where I’d hoped they’d laugh, and not in the rest.
I came away exhilarated from two hours of being surrounded by terrific poetry and the appreciation of it. I really look forward to attending the next Speakeasy, which Luther Allen hopes to schedule for February, and hearing the poets who’ll take their turns then.