The new knack that’s comin from way way back

Being stuck in traffic at 6:30 is not where I wanted to be last Friday, especially when the reading I am heading to starts at 7 and I am one of the features. Still, I figure I can get to KSW on time since I have
a) faith that God loves a good poetry reading and thus will part the Bay Bridge
b) I am a good city driver and can weave through slow moving Volvos with ease

My faith went to mush a half hour later as I was still about 100 yards shy of the toll plaza with little relief in sight. At this point my only shred of hope was that this reading would start at poet time (uhm, give or take 7:30) and that I could still make it in time.

By 7:35 I was down in the Mission and was able to score parking right in front of Space 180 which meant all I had to do was race up the stairs and then relax until I got to read cuz you would think I would at least get a second to compose myself before being called to read.

That turned out not to be the case as I walked in just as Margaret Rhee was finishing her set and then Truong Tran, the MC for the night, immediately called me up to read my work.

SET-LIST
• Viewing the world from the back of a turtle
• This Wednesday
• Proverbs by Teresa de Jesus from Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination
• Dedication
• Political Theory

Note to self: Do not start a reading by reciting your long prose poem when you are still trying to get your breath back from running up three flights of stairs. Actually, I didn’t get my full breath back until I read the cover poem but every reading is an experience and so it goes.

Other than the lack of oxygen for the first poem, I think the reading went well. The order of the poems built in intensity, the work varied in line length and point-of-view from poem to poem, and the audience was very receptive to the work. This is also the first time in a long time that I was not concerned with reading brand new work. Maybe it was all the stress at work lately and how that has encroached my writing time, or maybe it was the fact that I have been to some great readings lately where no one is really that worried about the difference between old work and new work, or maybe I just needed a chance to read poems just for fun.

With my reading done and over with, I could sit back and enjoy the work of the rest of my workshop mates which was all kinds of dope. I am bummed to have missed Margaret Rhee’s set but I hope to hear more of her work soon. Vanessa Huang brought a mix of different poetic forms and styles and I really dig her poet/journalist piece on interviewing Katrina survivors. Sita Bhaumik’s work is sparse but cuts right to the point, her “Dawn” poem which makes use of the names of common household cleaning agents is pure fun. Adrien Salazar brought an older prayer poem and the new hotness with a serial poem that examined the struggle of the migrant worker thru various time periods and perspectives thru effective poetry. Nicole Bohn’s mix of the body politic, humor and music always leaves a strong impression behind, her “W” war poem standing out as well as her ode to Billy Holiday and Lester Young. Debbie Yee has a keen eye for overlooked detail which comes out clearer every poem and sharper every reading.

The only other person who I really wanted to hear from was Truong. As much as I have enjoyed learning from him in class, it is even better to hear him take all the principles about combining the political with the poetic and put them in action in his poems. His last group of poems are so strong and take full advantage of the relationship between the poet and the audience, coming right out and addressing and preconceptions on the listener/reader’s part without ever shying from the fact that both have equal say in what is unfolding in the poems.

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

2 thoughts on “The new knack that’s comin from way way back”

  1. Trying to get to an even better place but also trying to have as much fun as I can through every step of the journey. ;-)

    Wishing you a feliz y prospero Año Nuevo, Sheryl!

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