The Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything Else reading had me laughing a whole way lot, for sure. David Kirby, Barbara Hamby, Albert Goldbarth, Mark Halliday, Jennifer Knox, and Jason Bedle read poems about, among other things, chicken buckets, The Rotary Club, an actual key that opens the human heart, and Shakespeare's plays. I was very happy I attended!
(top to bottom): Albert Goldbarth, David Kirby, Barbara Hamby)
Then I was lucky enough to hear Juan Felipe Herrera belt it out for a small and very, very lucky crowd crowd (why did they have him read such a crackerjack poet during lunch hour?). If you don't know Herrera's work, you need to click on his poem 187 Reasons Mexicans Can't Cross the Border right now. Unbelievable. He told stories about his ferocious tia (aunt), who had a scary, mean trembling voice and wore a black rebozo and a 10-pound black rosary, who was always standing on some street corner trying to bless someone by throwing water on them. He also shared he was a terrible altar boy ("I didn't even know when to ring the bell!"), and that he didn't speak at all during his K-12 years, but he did sing, recite poems, and play music. He also spoke about living in San Francisco in a "Chicano Animal House,"and being part of the SDS's shutting down of the Berkeley campus. He said that back in those days he climbed a peach tree each morning to eat his breakfast in. When asked what was going down during that "time of political transformation," he said "guns, drugs, poems, and love, and any one of those will kill you."
(Juan Felipe Herrera signing after his amazing reading, above)
The final panel I attended was titled Outsiders Writing the Outside: A Reading of Wilderness Poetry by Women, Queer, and Minority Poets. Keetje Kuipers moderated, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, GE Patterson, Paisley Rekdal, Brian Teare, and Ross Gay read. What I enjoyed about this reading is that all the poems shared use images from nature, but they are not writing "nature poems," i.e., descriptive lyrics that reflect mostly on the beautiful and awe-inspiring aspects of the natural world. Nature in their poems was not always pure and sublime; it was much more messy and complicated than that. As Keetje Kuipers commented "My nature poems have nail polish or a landfill in them--that's what eco-poems are about."
(L to R: Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ross Gay (behind), Paisley Rekdal, Brian Teare, and GE Patterson.)