On the Tuesday following the aforementioned open mic, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, CCSF English professor and poet did a reading in Rosenberg Library as part of Latino Heritage Month. Ms. Candelaria read clearly and vigouously, filling the room without being overpowering. She read pieces from her book Empire as well as some newer poems. Her poems contained a lot of intricacies, blends of things, images, ideas, invocations of the past. In the Q&A that followed the her reading, she discussed various things like imagery as a “gift to the audience,” how her book received its title and how she came to be a poet. There was a Poetry for the People connection there as Ms. Candelaria took part in the late June Jordan’s version of Poetry for the People at Cal. While I’m probably not doing the event justice, it really was a very interesting, absorbing event.
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.
Most of the Forum crew rolled up to Brainwash around the same time Sunday (November 20th) night. It was dark and cool out and Brainwash looked warm and welcoming…though it didn’t necessarily like a place a reading was about to take place. The cafe was full of patrons and some of them were clustered around (or on) the small stage where the reading would be and the mic wasn’t set up. Ellie went to see to the microphone, our fiction editor Michael cleared people from the stage area. Kat brought sweets.
Ellie served as emcee once again and Forum contributor Monty Heying led off, reading from a short story. He was followed in no particular order (because I don’t quite remember the order) by John Isles, one of our faculty advisers who read some of his poetry, Real Lapalme, another contributor read two of his poems from the last issue. Assistant fiction editor Chanelle was reluctant to read but was eventually persuaded to share an excerpt from a piece of short fiction. I read a poem by a friend then a few of my own, poetry editor Alison read a couple of poems and a nonfiction piece (also transit themed).
I had mentioned the event to my dad Ra-Ta and he decided to attend and decided to share a rather rousing rendition of a two of his own raps (he didn’t even need the mic). Michael read a couple of poems, Ellie introduced herself and read a piece about riding the 22 then another guy with observations about seating on the bus (yes, another bus-themed item).
Ellie was outside being interviewed by the Guardsman so I somehow ended up behind the mic to bring the festivities to an end. Thus the night came to a close. It was a small reading but it was lively and spirited and a lot of fun. A big thanks of course to Brainwash and to everyone who came out or just stuck around and listened.
by Ayo Khensu-Ra
By Ellie MacBride |
For those of you who missed it, last night (October 23rd) was a great turn-out! Jazz guys ran late, Joseph Lease was falling asleep on a big purple chair, and I was freaking out…but that was just the beginning! By the time the reading started, it flowed like a soda fountain and ran smooth as a Mission low-rider. Kwame was the first featured reader, followed by Seth Harwood (who brought in an incredible CD collection (Seal, Old Dirty Bastard, all the classics…) and stack of notebooks to give away.) The night continued with a beat-influenced young poet named Paul Roccanova and ended with poet Joseph Lease, who had requested to go last and even got an encore!
Our open mic started with Loren Bell, a teacher at CCSF, who read three incredible poems (one of his own) while being accompanied by Steve and Craig on guitar and bass. The night continued with a few wonderful poems by Ayo, short story by Kyanne, even shorter story by me, a few vignettes by Dillon Petrillo, and a special guest appearance by Terry Richardson, who actually just ended up being my friend Alex Greenburg, the only one who wore a costume. There were complimentary chips (provided by Kwame) and refreshments available by donation all night.
The space was intimate, vibrantly decorated, kinda kitschy, and perfect for our reading and we were so lucky to be offered it at no charge. We auctioned off a couple Forums, and ended up making ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS on the dot, which is great considering we pretty much spent NO money!
Ellie MacBride is Forum’s general editor.