Posts Tagged ‘seattle poetry’

This November, I’m teaming up with Casey Tonnelly for our Illustrious Fall Tour of the West Coast!  Our writing styles offset each other perfectly.  I guide listeners into the underworld of the collective unconsious, and Casey makes the sun shine bright with their always funny story poems.  We’re still looking for shows in Oregon and Northern California for Nov. 3-5, 11, 13, and 17.  Contact us at oscar.mcnary@gmail.com.

Here are our dates so far.  Come on out for a great show!

Tuesday, November 6 – Los Angeles – Da Poetry Lounge at Greenway Court Theater, 544 N Fairfax Ave 9 p.m., $5, all ages

Wednesday, November 7 – Pomona – LionLike MindState at Machine Pomona, 273 S Park Ave
Thursday, November 8 Oceanside, CA Glassless Minds, 6:30, Twilight Stage, 219 North Coast Ocean Highway

Friday, November 9 – San Jose State University, Memorial Chapel, 7 p.m., free, all ages

Saturday, November 10 – Santa Cruz, The Sage House, time TBD

Monday, November 12-  7:30 p.m., Sacramento Poetry Center 1719 25th Street, all ages

Wednesday, November 14 – The Berkeley Poetry Slam – The Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley 8:30, all ages, $7

Thursday, November 15 – Chico Slam, Chico Peace and Justice Center, 526 Broadway Street, Chico, CA, 7:30, all ages

Friday, November 16 – Eugene, University of Oregon, Erb Memorial Union,  1228 University of Oregon
Ben Linder Room, 4 p.m. free, all ages

Saturday, November 17 – Portland, OR – In Other Words Community Center,  14 Northeast Killingsworth Street, workshop at 6 p.m., performance at 7 p.m., suggested donation: $5, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.


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I’ve been listening to whatever I could find of Roger Bonair-Agard’s work for some time, but this was my first chance to hear him in person.  It was encouraging to see  someone give such a well-crafted, deeply moving performance entirely on page.  I enjoyed so much of the feature that I could not write it down fast enough, but below are a few of the moments that I could capture.

Roger opened with a prophetic piece, advising powerful white people about the coming revolution.  It begins, “no one ever plans for blood but blood comes.”  It is a warning that people will not tolerate racism and war forever, and their movements are linked:”We’ve been memorizing the whistling of shell casing.”  “We love you. Lean in.  This could save your life.”

Much of the feature was a meditation on Blackness, pop culture, and social interaction.  About halfway through Roger’s set, a drunk spectator yelled “I want a love poem!”  And Roger responded perfectly, “All of these poems are love poems.”

For he finale, “For You Who Could Know Me Who Could Love What I Love,”  Roger uses pop culture references and common social ground to show that humans share so many things.  It is a call for connection: “Do not say you don’t know me when I have been walking your dreams all these years.”

I hadn’t stayed for the slam portion for a long time, but I’m really glad that I did that night.  Three of my favorite poems showed up.  Although I didn’t make it to the third round, I won, because I got to hear such gorgeous poetry.

Amber Flame made my history nerd heart happy with her Elvis poem, about how “Black music has never been allowed to be rock n roll for long. . . we are not allowed to own.  We are allowed to mark.”  Truth, and such a good poem.

Conor Anderson’s stunning analysis of entropy and death followed.  “The things we are made of do not know who we are. . . We do not deserve to live.  We just do. . . When I die, there will be nothing left of me. . . It is not possible to have the experience of not having experiences.  . .Your death will not hurt you. . . You will be a bit of foam shaped like a human face on a  wave after it crashes.”

Lastly, Rose McAleese’s poem about sampling gets to the heart of creativity: “Shakespeare can take a tragic Italian love story and write  his name at the bottom.  The best artists do not copy. They steal.”  This poem is absolution for the sin of unoriginality: an acknowledgment that none of us invented the world. Rose has a new book out, Strong. Female. Character.

As always, I took notes in a dark bar, so some of these quotes may turn out to be paraphrases.

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I didn’t stay for the slam, because it goes so late, and I have to wake up at 6:00 for work.  There were a few pieces worth noting, though.

Dane Kuttler’s eulogy for Maurice Sendak was a magic labyrinth, just as any poem about his work should be [full disclosure: Dane is my co-editor for the collection In the Biblical Sense: An Anthology of Ap0cryphal Poetry].  The poem begins, “Inside every human is an oak door with a brass knob. . . this is where the wild things are.”  The poem gives the feeling of being led by the hand through a thick forest in the winter, all bare branches.  We’re going somewhere, but it’s kept a mystery until we arrive.  This poem is rich with the identification of introverted writers, showing us how a closet could be a refuge, and in sickness, an apartment could be an island.  Dane’s performance of this piece was so raw and personal.  It exhibits her recent streak of dream intermixed with concrete experiences, and I so enjoyed it!

Also on the open mic, Sean Patrick Mulroy performed “Fair.” In it, he creates a sepia-toned picture of a carnival.  A jock, “the one whose sweat-ringed jersey burns a hole in your stomach” apologizes for past homophobic remarks and takes a boy on a date to the fair.  There, they act out an all-American date, complete with ferris wheel and jacket sharing.  I won’t spoil what happens at the end.  Of course the double entendre of “fair” is great, but I find the craft of this poem is the precision of the images Sean Patrick creates.  It sounds like a faded photograph or film of a fair from the 1950s.  I could smell the popcorn, feel the clouds of cotton candy.

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Marita Isabel and Okanomodé featured at the Bellevue Arts Museum’s event, BAMignite: Funk Out!  The show was built around the museum’s exhibit of quilts, presumed to be made by Black women (more on that later).

Apropos of the theme, the first two poems explored the complexity and power of femininity.  Okanomodé opened with “Like Woman.” The poem’s thesis, “Man that I am, why wouldn’t I want to be like a woman?” rings through the poem, in his descriptions of all the roles of women, “footsoldiers, bearers of starfish, starfruit, keepers of the flame.”  Marita’s first poem, “Lady Dandelion,” stands slut-shaming on its head.  The dandelion “directs the wind with her own desire,” and makes the patches of dirt wait for her, before she becomes a “liberated slut.”

The second set of poems addressed the exhibit more explicitly.  Marita’s “Rorschach Test” addressed a particular quilt, and compared it to all the similar things she sees in the world.  Then, she talks about how the meaning has been stripped in the gathering of these quilts, with “I wonder if there are codes in the quilt only decodable by African Americans.”  Okanomodé’s “Herstory” was a gorgeous display of some of that lost meaning.  The quilts were “telling stories in tactile and textile,” like “an evening star to lead them north.”  He explains that the quilts are “worthy of our reverence not because they hang in galleries,” and rise above “dismissive phrases like ‘outsider art.'”  These two pieces helped to explain the context and the content of the work that the plaques mounted on the walls had not even attempted.

For the finale, Marita and Okanomodé composed a duet.  The echoes in their composition were exaclty right.  Each of them guided us through their creative lives, starting in middle school, up through their fears of performing as early adults: “I was scared of letting someone else’s speakers amplify my words.”  Then, the release of realizing how healing self expression can be: “the truth always becomes obvious when you write it down.”

All of this thought-provoking poetry was in the context of an exhibit with no artists’ names.  The collector, Corrine Riley, bought the quilts from estate sales and garage sales, but did not keep any information about the people who made these or sold them to her.  The quilts were arbitrarily named and dated by the white lady collector.  One quilt’s plaque literally described it as “primitive.”   Black art was stripped of Black artists: the people who created the work of this exhibit have had their voices bleached out of it.

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Minor Arcana Press, a new Seattle-based publisher, will put out Evan J. Peterson’s new collection Skin Job .

The book trailer is below, with Evan’s poem “Rebirth is Always Painful.”

Evan has such a gift of bringing the grotesque to life.  This video shows a lot of throwbacks to old school horror: the dripping blood, Evan’s deep, serious intonations, and even clips of old horror movies.  Even with the liberal sprinkling of camp, this video is scary, but it leaves me with questions, so I can’t look way.   I look forward to reading more from Evan in his upcoming book.

The book release party will be at 7 p.m. on on Friday, September 7 at Richard Hugo House.  Also performing will be local poets and favorites of mine, Okanomodé, Morris Stegosaurus, and Lydia Swartz.

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Photo by Rae Ludwig

I will double feature with Casey Tonnelly at Seattle’s queer poetry show, Spit!  Casey’s style and mine complement each other well.  I tend toward magical dark imagery, while Casey tends toward humor and story telling.   Seattle Spit has been a great community space since I moved to Seattle, and I’m excited about my second feature there.  An open mic follows our feature, so bring something to share or just come to listen.    See y’all there!  8:30 Thursday, August 9, The Wild Rose, 21+, free.

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At a house party on Capitol Hill, a chain mail shirt was hanging between two horns on the wall.  More than fifty cute guys shuffled through the kitchen out to the deck.  Delicious local brew and sangria flowed from taps in the living room.  When I arrived, the door guy gave me a  badge, like ones I’ve worn for Dragon Con or NPS.  This was no amateur party.

Since the first time I heard Morris, I’ve loved his bizarre images and the visceral sense his work makes.  Morris’s performance was as engaging as ever. He appeared to be possessed by each poem, channeling its full intensity.  Morris travels from silly to existential in the space of a few minutes. Here are some of my favorite moments: from his poem “Narcissus,” “You can’t slice open a zebra, expecting to find sparklers.”  From “Recession,” “I had my wings clipped so I could get at job at a nice factory,” pretty much sums up the sacrifices and compromises we make in order to get by.  From “Undertow,” “The moon contemplates the man.  I ride the bus to the bus.”  My favorite performance of the night was “Incomplete Outline of the Thirteen Steps to Becoming,” a bit during which he appeared shaken up, correcting himself as part of the poem.  From that, “The first step is to accept that you might be crazy.  The second step is to realize you’re not crazy.”  How gorgeous and affirming!  His final piece of the night reached new heights of surrealism:  “You will find a box the size of the sky,” “You will swallow the banyon tree and spit toothpicks into the sea,” and “humming like an egg begging to crack.”

Morris was accompanied by a guitarist and a cellist during his set.  My favorite accompaniment piece was “Rude Mechanicals,” which featured a lot of noise and screeches on the cello and guitar, to set the mood of a dystopic future.  I often find that unconventional instrumental work can really bring out the mood of a poem.

Morris’s book Zebra Feathers is forthcoming from Minor Arcana Press on December 1.  I am already excited to read this book.  Minor Arcana Press is a new, Seattle-based imprint of Squall Publishing, and its first book, Evan Peterson’s Skin Job, will be released in September.

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