I've had terrific readings and then there are the ones that are funny later. The Phoenix Reading Series at the Bengal Curry restaurant offered blasts of door-opening chill, take-out customers, fluorescent ambiance, and a chugging soda machine. Luckily, I was reading with Margo Berdeshevsky and Yerra Sugarman. Alicia Ostriker (really good poet) sat in our audience along with Michael Graves the organizer (selling his book) and three attentive guys who also came for the open mike. See this story about the readings.
Yerra (middle of photo) read from a long sequence about an aunt, coma, and holocaust. There were lines of heartbreak that made me want to read them to figure out how she wrote it.
Margo (on left) turns out to be a childhood friend of my painter friend Jada Rowland. I heard how she fell through the ice in a pond near Jada's home on Staten Island when she was 7... She is still taking risks, she explores the role of myth and healing in the face of disasters from war and nature--she volunteers and reports in these places. Like Jada she used to be an actress; she read with enough passion that even the poori customer looked up.
After all that really good heavy stuff, I decided to drop some levity. I read my new shaped poems, many of which are well...sexy with a twist. The three guys waiting to read brightened up, although with such a small audience it felt odd to mention lust. Alicia chuckled.
Best of all, I traded books with my fellow readers and the three of us had dinner with Alicia. Even if our waiter blundered our orders at Elephant & Castle the conversation about poetry, teaching, travels, and our lives, was a delight.