Scenes from the North Beach Poetry Crawl

The last installment of the highly ambitious San Francisco International Poetry Festival was the North Beach Poetry Crawl, a combination of small gallery and open-air readings blanketed out over one of SF’s most densely populated residential, business and tourist areas.

The attendance for the events we managed to hit seemed pretty high with a mix of die-hard Beat poetry fans (the faces Barb and I seem to see at most City Lights events), supporters of the readers (I could see new faces encouraging on different poets) and some random folks. In short, I think the event was successful in bringing together different poetry lovers and having them hear new voices. The one event with the lowest visible attendance was the closing party at Washington Square Park but if you factor in that came at the end of almost 6 hours of poetry and the 15 degree dop in temperature as the fog came down hard, then you can see why only the hardest of hard-cores stayed for that one. (Disclaimer: With no jacket and seriously tired out from all the readings, I couldn’t stay for all of the closing festivities.)

Personal non-poetry highlights: My first pilgrimage to the Goorin Bros Shoppe, one of the finest haberdasheries anywhere. My fedora collection grows and I will not be back until I hit the lottery so I can indulge myself to the fullest.

Other indulgences: Giordano Brother’s all-in-one sandwich is da bomb diggity; treat yourselves if ya can. I don’t remember the name of the pastry shop on Broadway with the yummers chocolate mousse cake but thanks for the sugah fix. And finally, Mo’s Grill in North Beach cuz sometimes it really is all about a classic burger with a Pepsi.

Poetry highlights: Georges Castera/Joj Kastra work hitting an even higher note than the night before with a whole new set of work that was nuanced, immediate and full of contemplation.

Ámbar Past and Alejandro Murguía duet at the Beat Museum was relaxed and inviting while still lyrically dense.

Al Young followed with a set that also encouraged audience participation but with an emphasis on personal, poetic and geographic histories.

Taslima Nasrin reading in Kerouac Alley was masterful in how she combines the elements of the mythic woman with the realties of the modern woman in her poetry with a style that embeds the politics in the verse.

Props again to Carla Badillo Coronado for setting off the Kerouac Alley reading with a repeat of her set from the night before but still managed to maintain the energy and closed the festival with a and her dance performance at the final event.

Our only disappointment was not being able to hear Sasha Pimentel Chacón at Live Worms Gallery because of a typo on the program but we were able to catch up with her and Daniel at the previously mentioned Mo’s for down-home food, meeting new peeps and some good face time.

Seem like much? It was. And it was all very much worth it to hear voices from around the world, some with harrowing political tribulations that remind us what a luxury poetry in the US can be. All to say, I’ll be clearing out space on my calender for the next installment of the International Poetry Festival.

YouTube video of the North Beach Poetry Crawl can be found here.

Flickr photos of the North Beach Poetry Crawl can be found here.

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.

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