Askew’s first L.A. reading

Saturday, December 7, 2013

According to Phil Taggart and Marsha de la O, tonight’s reading at Beyond Baroque was the first time the magazine had organized an event in Los Angeles. They invited both contributors to the latest issue (#15) as well as past contributors to take part in today’s gathering. Laurel Ann Bogen was one of the first readers, as she had to get back home to prepare for tomorrow morning’s annual holiday party that will feature one of the year’s sweetest rituals at her residence: the playing of Dylan Thomas’s recording of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Larry Colker brought along a lectern-sized xylophone that he elicited gently swooning echoes from as he recited his poem. Herb Reich read a piece that meditated on the futility of trying to comprehend musical terms by using dictionary entries; the attempt to catch the meaning of “hemidemisemiquaver” reminded me of Zeno’s Paradox, except that Herb can closer to resolving it than most philosophers. There were a number of poets I’d hadn’t heard read before: Dane Baylis, Marjorie Becker, and a young, intriguing poet named F. Albert Salinas. Many of the most familiar voices sounded better than ever: Carol Davis and Judith Pacht read fairly early on, while Amy Uyematsu and Dorothy Barresi read at the very end. Both Amy’s and Dorothy’s poems were quite good. I have heard Dorothy read fairly frequently and I always have a strong reaction one way or the other. Tonight’s poem was unusually poignant. Amy Uyematsu’s poem had been published in an earlier issue of Askew (#9, I believe) and her performance made me want to dig up that issue and read it again. My colleague-in-spirit, Gerald Locklin, read a very funny poem about his visit to the doctor’s office. It helped keep things on the buoyant side, given that the evening started with a reading of a poem by the late Kurt Brown by Marsha de la O, who also read a poem by Wanda Coleman later on in the evening. I recited Mark Van Doren’s “When the World Ends” as my contribution to the gathering. Two of my colleagues at CSU Long Beach had originally told ASKEW they would be there, but proved to be no shows. Whatever they might have read would certainly have made a fine evening even better, but Holaday Mason and Sarah Maclay (who brought along a huge contingent of students to help fill out the audience) more than made up for their absence with palpitating renditions of deeply felt lyric poems.