Wednesday, June 18, 2014
MORE POETRY EMOTION
But some highlights were seeing my dear old L.A. friend, the beautiful poet/playwright/writer and producer of the LIBRARY GIRL readings series in L.A.—Susan Hayden. And the pleasure of seeing her in person after too many years was trumped by the gift of hearing her read a brilliantly structured and read poem about her growing up in Encino envious of the lives of those who lived over the hill from "The Valley."
An equally brilliant performance began the night and it came from Susan's 17-year-old son, Mason Summit, who sang and played his guitar on two songs he'd written and recorded with such professional expertise and showmanship it was hard to believe it was his first time on a New York stage, let alone only seventeen. The songs not only expertly crafted but moving.
A performer who by now is an old hand on New York stages, Kidlucky Beatrhymer, brought down the house with his human beatbox rhymes, like a mashup of Bobb McFerrin and Jay Z. As did Bob Holman with a masterful performance of a story about how he won a poetry slam, or stomp as it's called there, in Wales and in the Welsh language (Bob has been the world leader in the movement to save endangered languages). He was clever, funny, moving and totally entertaining and engaging.
Another highlight and maybe the funniest of moment of the evening was the comic writer (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE is only one of his amazing credits) Alan Zwiebel reading from his collection of short pieces CLOTHING OPTIONAL and from his novel, THE OTHER SHULMAN. His introduction to both pieces were worth the price of admission, and the pieces were even funnier.
I read a shortish poem (for me) on the theme of the evening: "TIME CASTS A SPELL
I have no fuckin' clue what that's supposed to mean.
Time is a human invention.
What's a date to a fly?
What's a day to a fly?
What's a day to a tree?
Does my hair mean the 1960s has cast a spell on me?
Maybe it means the reason I love to watch
Old black-and-white movies on TV is
Because they remind me of my childhood
When my parents were still alive
And my three oldest brothers and
My oldest sister who I adored
And my aunts and uncles and older
Cousins and despite, or because of, the war
And all its horrors and the post-war challenges
The future looked bright and inviting
And my immortality certain.
Or, maybe it means despite the ways you've aged
When I heard your voice it brought back every
Moment of pleasure and joy we shared when
We both were young enough to still be ambitious
But old enough to appreciate an interruption of
That to take time for new love.
Or maybe it just means I'm old
But carry with me in every moment
The sum of my experiences
The total array of emotions and
Thoughts and all that I've witnessed.
So that in any situation or circumstance
The history of my life is there
With me, reminding me of how
Much time matters
When there's so little left
To cast a spell."
And I followed that with a reading of "Sports Heroes, Cops and Lace" from my book CANT BE WRONG (and also written for that theme, which obviously I came up with, back when Eve Brandstein and I were running POETRY IN MOTION in L.A. in the '80s and '90s). It's a poem about what my father was like when I was a boy and how Jackie Robinson influenced my thinking and the decisions I made early in my life and where the two intersect, and I was reading it for Father's Day, but toward the end began losing it, getting all verklempt, or whatever the expression is that means I choked up and finished the poem with great difficulty as I was crying by then.
I felt a little awkward coming off stage but people reached out to shake my hand and pat me and much later when I was on the train heading back to Jersey, my good New York friend, John Restivo, (AKA Johnny Eyes) who was at the event, filled my heart with gratitude for good friends when he texted me:
"Janis Joplin cried most times after she left the stage. How could she not? Anyone who puts themselves out there for all to see, their heart is in a place of peace and freedom."
And then went on to share a comment his daughter made about him that matched one I was making about my father toward the end of the poem, both working-class guys with hearts of gold. How delightful, and I do mean delight full, life can be when I'm open to it.