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A Collision, of Sorts

January 4, 2014

Recently I had one of those collisions of cultural values that makes one, if one is like me, wonder just where I am in the grand scheme of things.

I had seen a notice about a reading by a writers group in a public library up the coast.  Now, there are the occasional poetry open mics here, or nearby, a couple times a month in a local bar, another in a “coffee house” (for “recovering” alcoholics, etc.), but this seemed to be a different crowd  so I took the afternoon to drive up 1.

It was a “book launch” for a little collection these folks, who have been in a workshop together with a local workshop maven for a year or so, & now have struck off on their own, whatever that means.  The book was one of those print-on-demand productions with a shiny cover, perfect binding (but without text on the spine) & crisp text: Coffee Tuesdays, (Tuesday Coffee, 2013).  Attractive enough, but just the 21st Century equivalent of the saddle-stapled home grown photo-copied zines of the 1990s.

Actually, if you went to the reading, there was little reason to buy the book, since the poets essentially read the poems they published in the book. There was no MC or host (an attractive, younger member of the group did a general introduction), each poet introduced the one following them. Many audience members in the hot & crowded room used their copies of the anthology as a scorecard to keep track of not only who was coming up, but what they were reading.

It was a gathering of what might be called “fine lady poets” (with apologies to the 2 male poets) — well dressed, aged, affluent, literate, white.  The topics of the poems were similarly limited, with lots of Nature poems, memories of childhood, church, & animal poems — over-loaded with dog/cat poems, many not in the book, but read particularly at the end when patience & tolerance was ebbing. Perhaps it was a function of the age of the workshopers (most in the 50+ range) that there were few love poems & not a single sex poem; there was nary a discouraging word, no urban poems, & scant that played with language. Likewise, humor was a rare element. It was a very “safe” reading by what I expect are “poets” who don’t go to poetry readings that don’t include the rest of the gang.  It was an insular group feeding upon themselves so that many of the poems actually sounded alike, the way people say owners tend to look like their dogs (or is that the other way around?).

I felt that these folks need to branch out, to read other poets besides Mary Oliver, Ed Hirsch, Billy Collins, et al., to go to poetry readings, or even get real bold & attend some open mics in some funky bar, i.e., get out of the ‘burbs & come downtown (such as it is here).  Do you really want to write poems like the person sitting next to you every Tuesday night?  Some people just have too much time on their hands.

In reaction I stumbled into a local bar for happy hour & dinner.   It was a working class-looking place, baseball & soccer on the TV’s, Bud Light & Coors Lite on tap (but enough local realbeers to make me feel at home).  But what made me feel most uncomfortable was the prevalent fashion statement:  polo shirt, cargo shorts, & sunglasses perched up on a baseball cap.  There were obvious class differences among the patrons — the pressed shorts, the fancy logos of expensive resorts, designer shades, versus grimy bermuda shorts, tee-shirts, MLB caps & knock-off sun-glasses.  But it was basically the same mindless outfit, with the glasses perched on the cap like a sun screen for the logo.   & what’s with the bald pates?  The world used to mock the bald guys, now even guys with hair shave it off (then grow a neat goatee).  Go figure.

I had a burger & a beer & left, drove back down the coast hugging the edge, wondering what some punk smart aleck would be writing about me in 20 years, if I even would attract her attention.  Trust me, I’m not a fine lady poet & don’t wear sunglasses on my baseball cap — ever.

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From → Poets, Ponderings

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