So I took part in this reading last night that my old "Poetry in Motion" partner from L.A. Eve Brandstein organized at the Cornelia Street Cafe. It was a relatively small crowd, but as old time New Yorkers would say: it was "cherce" (as in "choice").
Mostly an array of powerhouse women, on stage and in the audience, with a couple of men thrown in for diversity [like Tim, who sometimes comments here and showed up to catch the evening, much to my delight]. Seven "performers," two men. The other male performer [Nathan P.] was dressed like a sharper more stylish Cornell West and did original, rhymed, romantic, and obviously to the women in the room, seductive—and maybe the few men as well—verse from memory, more like proto-rap toasting than hip hop boasting.
I don't have all the names, but will try to get them, but the women all kicked butt, starting with my old L.A. poetry reading partner Eve who read a tour de force litany of "maybes" that told the story of her mother's and her life in a series of succinct lines and images that for my taste was not only uniquely brilliant but deeply poignant while still drawing plenty of laughs.
Another woman [Tina Dupuy]—an actress and comic—read a great piece of prose about losing a friend and giving blood as a life-affirming tribute to them, but what started out tragic ended up comic. As maybe the most impressive contribution of the night did in reverse. A totally charismatic "big blonde" (in the literary tradition of Kerouac and Dorothy Parker, visually) and startlingly the mother of five [Jennifer Rawlings], startling because she didn't look like she could have had that many, nor did her life sound like she'd have the time to have them, let alone raise them, given her declaration of having spent time in several war zones "the only place where she smokes" as she put it and then preceded to tell a hilarious story of being alone in a "B-hut" on a base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night during a firefight, or at least a mortar attack, and having to urinate when the facility to do that was a distance in the dark with rockets going off and maybe aimed at her!
How she dealt with that problem was pretty hilarious, but with the smoothness of a great story teller she had her audience solidly in the uneasy laughter of a-dangerous-situation-being-also-funny, followed the next day by a hospital visit to wounded soldiers and civilians that was heartbreakingly moving and I wished could have been on the evening news or the endless talk shows to inject a shot of reality into the otherwise mostly political spin and superficial celebrity hype that news has become.
And there was still more. A deceptively serio-comic couple of prose bits from an endearingly honest writer/performer [Alana Ruben Free] explored her quest for a man who won't treat her like a goddess but is willing to work toward an equal relationship based on the ideal projected in the Kabbalah that will supposedly be realized in a few more centuries!
She, like half the women there, well there were five so half isn't exactly correct, more like three of the women who performed have one-woman shows running currently in various venues around the country. In fact one of them, the last performer [Susan Merson] had just gotten off a plane from L.A. and performed a small part from her one-woman show about what it means to lose the love of your life who you've spent the last three decades with to an unexpected early (as almost all death seems to be) passing.
Man, it was a jewel of a night, one of those special moments of shared creativity that makes all the effort and struggle and disappointment and loss and challenges of life and creating any kind of art suddenly seem insignificant in the face of of actually experiencing it when it works. And last night it did. I was happy to be a part of it (even if I was having a tiring and challenging day for all the usual and unusual reasons).
If you hear of any of these folks performing anywhere near you, check them out, you won't be disappointed.