Today we drove out to Riverside, we being Richard (at the steering wheel of the trusty Corolla), Liz, and me, where I took part in an amazing reading at the Arlington Branch of the Riverside Public Library. It was the kickoff for the Litlandia Reading Series, organized by Cati Porter, founding editor of Inlandia and Poemeleon, literary journals where R and I have had poems published.
We had to drive the tollroads and freeways over the mountains, where there were many more cars than I had imagined would be out there on a relatively cool Saturday, with only one cloud in the sky and a light breeze ruffling the palm trees.
Though I had a few minutes anxiety, thinking we were late, we reached the library building, the only piece of history on a stretch of highway packed with taco joints and tattoo parlors. It was evidently part of Riverside's past, yet inside, was well refurbished, with a terrific room for readings and ample restrooms. The air conditioner was unfortunately set several degrees below arctic, but the poetry was so hot, I barely noticed.
I was the first to read. The lectern was so enormous that it swallowed me up, but I had little choice. I had to stay behind it because otherwise no one would hear me! I read 10 poems, including 3 of the yoga poems (at the very end). The rest were from newer material. It went well, and I sold several books.
The second poet was Larry Eby, a young guy who was very accomplished. He had impressive publications, a new book, and his own press. His work was wildly imaginative and interesting.
The third poem was Nicelle Davis, who carried her own props (a home-made velcro board with puppets and other small figures she had crafted out of feathers, buttons, and other assorted materials). She wore a long frilly dress, a vintage prom dress from the 70s, and looked like a vision of purity, but her poems had quite an edge to them. Again, she is a really interesting and accomplished poet, with several books to her credit, despite her young age.
Finally, Brendan Constantine read. I had heard about his poems and about his performances. But he still came as a wonderful surprise. All of his poems were incredibly original and his style of reading, if you can really call it reading, since he rarely glanced at the page, was amazing.
A brief open reading followed, where R read an improvised short poem he wrote just moments before and the poem he had published in the issue of Inlandia where I had also had a poem last summer.
Then we headed further up into the hills where my friend Lavina, a friend of many years, lives with her husband David. I knew Lavina was a serious painter, but I didn't realized just how serious until I saw her many canvasses stacked and hung all over the large house.
Her husband treated us to a vegan Chinese dinner, and then we headed back behind the Orange Curtain, feeling a bit sad that our day in the hills had ended.