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Archive for February, 2013

Chico is a cute little town in an expanse of nut groves.  Taz, the organizer of the Chico slam, did the legwork to pack out the Chico Peace and Justice Center. The space felt like home, exactly the mix of woo-woo and militance that I’m used to: prayer flags flapped across the ceiling and a sliding scale zine table at the side of the room.

I was impressed by the performance chops of the slammers. While we were waiting for the spacd to open, we met a man who was there for his very first slam. He looked down and shuffled from foot to foot when I greeted him.  On the mic, he delivered his work with conviction, and landed in third place.  

We were also blessed with the only only queer-specific poem of our whole tour.  Now, coming from Seattle, where queerness and poetry are synonymous, I was surprised by a lack of queer poems as we traveled down the coast.  The poem started “dear mom and dad. . .” and was an unapologetic coming out poem from poet Daniel Smallwood.  It was a real treat.

In so many ways, Chico was warm and welcoming.  I look forward to going back on my next tour of the West Coast.

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Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Coming from Seattle, where we take ourselves very seriously, the Berkeley slam was a fresh take on the playfulness of the slam.  Sevan Boult hosted, and reminded everyone to turn off our “asshole alarms,” because if our phones went off, everyone would know we were assholes.  The word of the day was homunculus, and throughout the night, poets substituted the word in their poems.  In the second round, when the audience response was waning, Sevan punished the audience by reading us Suzanne Somers’ poetry.  The spirit of the Berkeley slam reminds me that the slam is a gimmick to get people to listen to poetry, and it’s supposed to be fun!

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Teaching Kevin Holmes to dance, getting photobombed

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Sacramento Poetry Center organizer Emmanuel Sigauke and me

Sacramento is a sweet little town, the walnut-sized capitol controlling the Californian Brontosaurus   All the roads meet at right angles.  If you’re at the corner of N and 2nd, you know exactly how far you have to walk to get to Q and 10th.  Before the show, I updated facespace at Naked Lounge, a hip cafe staffed by cockatoo-haired baristas.

The Sacramento Poetry Center kindly agreed to host a reading for Casey and me on very short notice.  Before I arrived, I was a bit intimidated.  I  imagined the center as an arts mansion with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a grand estate  filled.  I planned more form poems for my set than usual, because I thought it would be closer to an academic poetry crowd.

In actuality, the center was nestled in an arts strip mall, a down to earth space about the size of a master bedroom.  The audience was small but attentive.  Local poet David Iribarne agreed on the spot to open the show with two deeply personal poems.  Contrary to my fears, funny pieces and pop culture critiques went over well.   I will definitely book the center the next time I tour the West Coast.

 

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