February 20, 2013

DC Poets Against the War - 10th Anniversary Reading, February 17

This reading, at Busboys and Poets at 5th & K in Washington, DC, was held to celebrate 10 years since the founding of DC Poets Against the War. Sarah Browning, who was there at the beginning, & went on to organize the Split This Rock Poetry Festival with Melissa Tuckey & others, served as MC/host (with Katy Richey as host for the open mic). Sarah talked about the first DC Poets Against the War reading & went on to talk in general about the cost of the war(s) that are still going on. There were 7 poets to read, each with a poem by "a missing voice," then one of their own.

Sarah Browning as MC
First up was Dan Vera, who is a founding member of DC poets. He read Grace Paley's "Responsibility" (which I note I have read as our "muse" at the Third Thursday Poetry Night in Albany), then a new poem of his own, "This is How We Learn of Other Countries." Melissa Tuckey began with "To Be or Not To Be with Headcover" by an Iranian poet friend, then her own poem, "University Kiss in a Time of War". Joseph Ross read "Wars Number 1" by an Iraqi-American poet, the an elegy to "The Buddhas of Bamiyan" destroyed by the Taliban. Esther Iverem talked about the influence of Aimé Césaire on poetry in the world & read an excerpt from his long poem "At at the End of Daybreak." Her own poem was the tender & moving "My Heart is Not For Sale." Leah Harris read "What I Will" by a Palestinian-American poet, then her own poem, "The Sniper & Saddam," about the DC sniper, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, & the media's advice to "keep going about your business as usual."

Yael Flusberg & Sarah Browning
It was great to see & hear another STR regular, Yael Flusberg, who began with the late Dennis Brutus' poem from 1975, "Sequence for South Africa" (I remember seeing Dennis read at the first Split This Rock festival in 2008). Her own poem was a wonderful piece of self-affirmation (& advice), "What I Tell Myself When I Go Out of My Mind" (or, What I Have Learned from Stones). Sarah Browning ended this part of the program with paired poems by an Iraqi poet, "Freedom Before the Occupation" & "Freedom After the Occupation," then she read a new poem, "In Quantanamo."

Susan Scheid
At this point Katy Richey took over for the open mic, & I was pleased with the "One Poem" limit (sounded like home). The first poet up was Susan Scheid whose poem, "Her Prayers," was about women in the world & as collateral damage of a war. Later, I bought her new book of poems playing off fairy tales, After Enchantment (2012). I brought Albany to DC with my reading of "Baghdad/Albany." Khilia Chantel recited her poem about love & being a poet, "Do They Really Love Me?"

There had been a huge demonstration here early in the day against the Keystone XL pipeline & climate change issues in general & Jesse Alexander's new poem "Climate Changes" was right on topic & he even worked in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy & other myths of our culture.

The audience listens to Jim Hayes
Jim Hayes read a poem by Natalie Diaz. Bomani Armagh has just taken over the poetry programming at Busboys & Poets & he performed a funny rap piece with the repeating line "the President's talking about a change…" Tamerra Henderson said she was in from Chicago & read her poem "When Will My Eyes Not Cry." It's hard to characterize Zoran's time on the stage, a combination of rambling introduction about children playing in the mud to a shorter poem about children & earth.

Tolanda Henderson's untitled piece played off the sci-fi concept of her having multiple versions of herself throughout the Universe. Ed Simmons read an intricate political rant in praise of whistle-blowers & against torture. Tony Bates' short poem was titled "Dust." Marianne Ross said she had read her poem "Numbers" at the White House; it was about her 8 previous "deaths" & how her 9th would be as a political activist.

The reading was scheduled from 5PM to 7PM, with another group coming in behind right away. The MCs did a good job of getting all the readers in just in time. But at the end we were being hustled out with little time for the socializing & schmoozing that's usually done. I missed saying "hello - goodbye" to some folks but did end up upstairs with Sarah, Melissa, Joe Ross, Susan & her husband & Katy Richey for a wide-ranging snarky poets discussion, with alcohol, of course. Be sure to check out the Split This Rock website for information on the 2014 festival & lots of stuff in between.

A full set of my photos can be found at my Flickr! site.

No comments: