Monday, May 14, 2012
Beyond Baroque at Last
No, I didn't get a featured reading at the place, as I've been trying to do. But I did attend my friend Lavina Blossom's reading, along with two other, more published writers, at Beyond Baroque. The reading was part of an interesting series called Hitched that puts together three poets: one without any book and few publications; one with a book, chapbook, and some assorted published works, and one accomplished, even distinguished poet, with several books and other honors to her name. This time, it was Lavina in the "emerging" spot, with Cati Porter, editor of Poemeleon, who also has a hand in making the journal Inlandia, and Judy Kronenfeld as the distinguished writer. I had heard Judy read at the Mug, and greatly admired her book Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, winner of the Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize, 2007, as the cover informs me. She has a new book, Shimmer, which I haven't read yet. I sold three books last night, after doing a bit of a Mother's Day open reading (2 poems), and traded that money up for this book. Lavina and I have been friends, albeit ones who don't see each other all that much, for years and years, since 1980, when both of us came to UCI's MFA program. If we hadn't met here, we were apparently destined to meet elsewhere, for we had applied to the same MFA programs, but both chose this one, lured by the mystique of Southern CA. Lavina is from the exotic (to me) realms of Upper Peninsula Michigan, hailing from a poor farm family. She writes sharp, incisive poems, but doesn't send them out, and has managed not to gather up a manuscript. She also paints, and has worked on and off on stories and a novel. She and I began taking Iyengar yoga many years ago, and for a while, she taught yoga. Now she practices at home, nursing her injured back. I can't convince her that doing yoga with a good teacher might help that. Though she works at UCI at the library, and has for many years, she lives in Riverside, so we don't get to spend as much time together as I'd like. It's a long way to OC from there. The other two poets on the schedule are her pals in Riverside. They lead a regular workshop she takes part in, and work with her on Inlandia, where Lavina is the poetry editor. It is a very long way to Venice from OC, I can tell you. The ride went on and on, using up half a tank of ridiculously expensive gas. However, we easily found parking on the street, and found the Beyond Baroque building, a well seasoned edifice that is filled to the proverbial gills with arts activities. When we arrived, there was a group of kids and parents taking part in a theatrical group of some kind in the same room we would occupy in an hour or so. No one was around save one lone administrator perched at the very top of the building. I introduced myself to her, and asked where the reading would be. At around 5, a very small group, composed mostly of the poets, us, and a few administrators from Beyond Baroque, showed up. It was clear there would not be a large audience. One person whom I recognized, though I could never quite figure out from where, showed up. She knew Judy from somewhere. I re-introduced myself to her too. The reading was good. Lavina read a group of poems she had shown to me a couple of months ago. I thoroughly enjoyed how they sounded when she read them. I hope she will start sending out, as she is a gifted poet. Cati's poems I think would read better on the page. They are complex. One sestina was hard to get my mind around when she read it aloud. I look forward to taking a better look at them sometime. Judy's set was much the same one she read at the Mug. She is such an accomplished reader that it was amazing just to examine how she presented each poem, now that I knew them from hearing and reading many of them on the page. I know she works over the reading, and I'd love to know more, so I could put some of those techniques to work myself. After the reading, just as it ended, a familiar looking person arrived, breathless, bike helmet in hand. It was Peter, our old friend from UCI. Lavina and I were in graduate school at the same time as Peter, years ago. He had the wrong time for the reading, and missed it, but we spent some time together, talking. I got to read two poems about "mothers"--one about my mom that I had published in Caesura in 2008, and another, suggested by Bob, my yoga teacher, about shoulder stand, the mother of all asanas, according to the Iyengars and other Indian practitioners of yoga. As Richard says, I am completely shameless when it comes to self-promotion, so I was thoroughly enjoying myself. It was a great Mother's Day! Hope yours was good too.