Last night I went to a reading and open mic at Tebot Bach (Little Teapot, in Welsh), at Goldenwest College. The last time I went there, last summer or so, I very much enjoyed the atmosphere and the company. Unlike many reading series and open mics, this one had about it no air of exclusivity or snobbishness. Yet the company included not a few accomplished poets, teachers and others in the community that one would not hear assembled together as in this place.
The featured readers were excellent, as usual. Carol V. Davis read mostly from her collection
Into the Arms of Pushkin, which was wonderful--funny, interesting, and poignant. There were poems about the time she has spent in St. Petersburg, Russia as a Fulbright Scholar and as a teacher in Russia, where poetry has always been something akin to sacred. I don't know if it is still that way, since the modernization of the place, which she describes quite succinctly. They seem to aim to outdo us in their turning away from the arts and culture to the world of fashion and fad, at least from the outside, from the few relatively recent Russians I have met. But probably there is still at heart what Mrs. Hamilton, my Russian teacher at Hollins, called "the Russian Soul." I should leave that capitalized because it is a proper name for sure, a brand.
David Oliviera also read poems about his expatriot experiences--this time in Cambodia. He was a student of Phillip Levine's from the Central Coast of California, and had been closely identified with poems of that region, so probably, he felt the urge to try out other places, and the long poem he read from was fully imbued in the people and place of his new home.
I remembered at least two of the open mic readers from last time because they were solid, interesting writers in their own right, working at honing their own voices. And they were joined by at least one new writer (new to me), a grandmotherly woman reading a bilingual poem in English and Spanish. She told us that she was part of a workshop for seniors in her community, and it was wonderful to hear that there is so much good writing going on all over the place.
I couldn't talk any of my own students into coming, although they would have been an interesting addition to the group, with something of their own to add. Maybe another time.
I read three poems myself, including the new one, "Fremont Station," from the hike I took last Sunday. It was wonderful to read again, but I was more nervous than I have been. That's a first for me. I have never been nervous before standing at a microphone, whether I was reading poems, stories, or giving a paper. It has been so long.
It would be nice to develop a reading series on this end of the county, but perhaps the new one at Laguna Beach Books will fit the bill. If Sunday were not such a tough day for me right now, I'd go there too.