Archive for November, 2012

me and Casey with the show organizers

Poetry Center San Jose and San Jose State Poets and Writers Coalition graciously hosted Casey and me for our fourth stop on our tour.  Our show was originally planned for the Spartan Memorial Chapel on the San Jose State University campus, but on the night of the performance, the organizers saw that it was sort of an out-of-the-way place, and asked a small coffee house, Philz Coffee if they could host us instead.  They not only agreed; they set up a stage and a full PA system.  The organizers’ resourcefulness in finding another performance space improved the impact of our work.  The excess unoccupied space in the chapel probably would have distracted the audience, but the cozy cafe packed everyone in pretty close.

Most of the cafe’s patrons had not intended to hear a poetry reading that evening, but they were appreciative anyhow.  The San Jose crowd showed us so much love, in coming up to talk to us and in buying our merch.  We weren’t even the only performance poetry show in San Jose that evening.  David Perez also had his Oversocial Mofo Revue that evening, of which we caught the end.  San Jose has enough interest in poetry that it can muster substantial audiences for two shows at once.  I will definitely go back.


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Glassless Minds organizer Rolland Tizuela and me

The love was palpable at the Glassless Minds show in Oceanside, CA, about forty minutes north of San Diego.  Most of the poets and audience members showed up wearing Glassless Minds shirts and patches.  The open mic was packed with talent, and Rolland Tizuela, the organizer and host, hugged each performer as they got up to speak.  Rolland said that we were the first touring poets to come through, but the audience showed us so much love, like they knew how much touring artists need that kind of support.

Several fundraisers were going on at the show.  One person was selling donated books to get to the AWP conference in Boston.  I bought an amazing pop up book there.  Another person was selling empanadas for a different fundraiser.  After the show, there were so many hugs and handshakes.  A woman approached Casey and me and offered us empanadas.  She introduced herself as Rolland’s mom.  

I recommend every touring poet stop by Oceanside for Glassless Minds to hear good poetry and experience this kind community.


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Casey Tonnelly at LionLike Mindstate

Machine Pomona, the art and community space that houses the poetry night LionLike MindState, is situated in Pomona’s arts colony.  Pomona is about forty minutes east of L.A.  Judah 1 Poet is the main organizer for the space.  He showed me around the neighborhood, and on our walk, there was hardly a person he didn’t know.  Machine Pomona serves as a gallery and a shop for various local crafts.  Additionally, there was a traditional capoeira  music class right before the show, and the band played during the poetry show.  

Although there were fewer than ten people in the audience, the reception was warm.  From this venue and the surrounding community, I learned the utility of building connections among different art forms, from textiles to poetry.  My favorite moment was when Judah began performing the LionLike MindState theme poem, and people from the crowd joined in.  


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Me and Shihan Van Clief

On Tuesday, November 6, Casey Tonnelly and I featured at L.A.’s nearly fifteen-year-old poetry Series, Da Poetry Lounge.

The host Shihan van Clief engaged the audience in a brilliant way that I’d never seen before.  He opened by asking if anyone had seen any movies, and asking audience members to argue with each other about whether a movie was good.  Throughout the show, he talked about the election that day, and even played Mitt Romney’s concession speech on a projector.  The second host, Natalie Patterson,  drew the audience into a conversation about dating protocol. This venue is packed out with 200+ audience members every week because the producers of Da Poetry Lounge relate poetry to everyday life.

I don’t think this is a small triumph: many poets struggle with accessibility.  How do we write interesting, challenging work, and stay relevant to the general population? From Shihan’s inclusive hosting style to the poem on the open mic addressing Kreayshawn to some gorgeous a capella  hip hop pieces, Da Poetry Lounge holds space for people with many different interests to enjoy and create poetry.  I am glad that I had a chance to feature at this venue, and I hope to visit again when I tour the West Coast again.

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