Timeliness is important and frankly Boeotia hasn’t been quite as timely this past semester as might be desirable. There are plenty of literary events around City College and San Francisco each semester and though some time has passed, this post and the next chronicle a couple of those events in an effort to stay connected with what’s going on around CCSF and the larger literary community.
On Friday, Sept. 23rd the Poetry for the People Club held an open mic at the Reading Garden between Cloud Hall and the Science Building. Around noon I made my way from wherever I was, around Cloud Hall to the stairs that lead up the north side of the hill on which the two buildings. It was warm and sunny but I was anxious. Just why that was is hard to explain…for whatever reason I get that way before events, before seeing people, even people I know. The strangest part was I had felt much the same thing in almost the same place two years ago.
Not to repeat myself — I wrote about some of this in my first post of Fall 2011 — but I had creative writing poetry in Cloud Hall in 2009 and I’ve accumulated a lot of memories on campus since then — hanging out before and after class, attending a reading at the poetry garden, the my fellow students and I sitting on the grass, reading on the last day. Class was around that time and as I walked up, I was very much reminded of times before class and what was almost the same feeling of anxiety. Class itself — our discussions, the reading and writing of poetry — was almost always great but the minutes before were often more nerve-wracking.
Folding chairs were arrayed between the flagpole and the trees. There was indeed a microphone along with a pair of speakers, the chairs were filled. I sat across the plaza on one of the cement benches in front of the Science Building, my mind still humming with those memories. The event was just getting started and I listened, trying to juggle the present and the past. Antonio Mims and Fourm’s Kaylo X. emceed. Poetry for the People has a long history at City College and so it shouldn’t be surprising that several Forum staffers have also taken Poetry for the People including Katie Dalla the Poetry for the People Club president (who contributed to this post) and myself so you may hear a thing or two about Poetry for the People on this blog.
I sat jotting down notes, the voices reverberating through the speakers. Very gradually I was drawn out of my past, my anxiety into the stories, the thoughts, the words of those who were reading. The readers covered all sorts of subjects — social and political issues, the personal, love, death. The titles of some of the poems may give some sense of that range — Tatiana Lyulkin read a poem called “Black Pride,” Zhayra Palma read one called “Subways,” Kaylo read “Last Night Troy Davis Was Murdered” and “Move,” Gabrielle Wilson-Sealy read “Cop Watch” and “Open,” Miguel Navarro read “Don’t Go” and Katie read “Recipe for Disaster” and “We Met in a Dance.”
There were many others. The participants were lively, engaging and without pretension. As the name Poetry for the People might suggest, they were just ordinary people sharing thoughts and feelings, their own poems or poems that meant something to them. There was no distinction between audience and reading. Some were confident in front of the mic, some less so but it was clear they all had something to say and the poems they read reflected that. They were not dry or academic but reflective of inner states, of very human things and because of that often had the transcendent qualities of the best poetry. By the end of the open mic, I’d forgotten my anxiety in the experience of listening, in the conversation between reader and listener.