While I was in St. Petersburg Florida for a sunny, warm vacation, I found a poetry open mic at "The Studio @ 620" (620 First Avenue South), www.thestudioat620.org. I had a marvelous time with energetic poets. The group was about to present a big poetry event on April 1, some of the poets rehearsing at the open mic. We read in a "round-robin" fashion, with other poets joining in as the night progressed. The host was Pedro Jarquin, who at one point claimed to be Mexican, then "Cambodian & Irish". Whatever; (you can find out the truth at www.nationofpoetry.com/). At one point he free-styled on the open mic sign up sheet; also read a good sex poem; another, "At the Tender Age of Fifteen", in Spanish & English about defending his Mom from an assault. I may steal his introduction of the group "10-Minute Break".
A lot of the work that night was slam styled, but that doesn't mean that the poems were bad or that there weren't other real poems sprinkled in. But unfortunately it also means that I got the distinct impression I'd seen it before. Like the poet (I never got his name if it was ever mentioned) who not only performed in slam/hip-hop cliches (you know those hand gestures & put-on accents), but also looked the part: black outfit with a floppy jacket, small leather fedora, neatly trimmed facial hair, sunglasses. As the Fugs once sang, "it's an old cliche, but it's an old cliche." His best poem, about sex as a sweet tooth, would have stood on its own without the theatrics.
David Durney who also runs an open mic in St. Petersburg at the Garden restaurant on Central Ave. was another slam poet, obviously a key figure in the scene, & a good poet. He read a "thank you" poem that my notes say, "good slam poem". So there are some.
Aleshea Harris, another key poet in the community, read twice. Her poem "Sometimes" said, "...let's poetry today..." -- a great idea for any day. And "Bitches" was about that. She knows the power of making the audience want more.
One of the night's "virgins", Chris McKenny, read poems that segued into free style in what can only be categorized as red-neck hip-hop (or red-hip neck-hop).
An interesting moment occurred when Carlisle, in sexy punk gear & net stockings, did a lament ("I carry this dead guitar with me...") for her guitar that was stolen after she had left it in Pedro's back yard in the hood, a good poem about partying & music. At the end, Pedro revealed that he had saved the guitar, that it had not been stolen at all. Later, doing another poem (on poets & revolution, "I want to go back to the Colorado nights...") she unzipped her black vest, flashing her pert breasts & black bra. How could I not buy one of the posters for the April 1 reading that she had personalized with her art? She signed it with "Chaos in small doses."
Since the poem I started the night with was "Baghdad/Albany", whenever Pedro introduced me he would refer to Albany burning; I also gave them "Where Were the Professors", and "What Passover Has Taught Me" later on.
Afterwards, outside, Ricki Lake talked about her long poem in her head that she wrote years back, sex & drugs, & the wildness of youth that she had recited from during the night, how sometimes when she is driving random lines would come to her, & she would say the poem outloud from there. It was like a metaphor for all we know & all we do.
Other poets/performers that night were Todd, Devon with guitar, Klean, Leesal (?spelling) -- a virgin, Justin Kline & Sarita singing "I Am Poem" at the end of the night.
If you're in the Tampa Bay area you need to check out this venue. Some of these poets, their poems & pictures are on nationofpoetry.com. I had a great time & felt right at home, without the cold & snow.