Friday, April 25, 2014

California Dreamers, Book Givers, and Poets

Melinda Palacio
World Book Givers Emma Trelles and Melinda Palacio

I arrived in California a week ago, amidst the buzz of poetry month in Santa Barbara. April is national poetry month in case you are wondering why your local barista is turning sonnets instead of steaming your cappuccino. The first poetry event I attended was a big ticket team of Billy Collins and Aimee Mann at UCSB's Campbell Hall. The combination of poet and rock star was superb. The two luminaries met at the White House and there was much banter and references to their having met at the President's request.

I don't begrudge them their numerous White House references. I'm sure if I ever found myself reading poetry at Obama's request, I wouldn't let anyone forget my presidential invite. Thanks to my friend Diana, I had a seat in row D with no one in front of me. The parley of poetry and musical performance felt intimate, even though Campbell Hall at UCSB is a large theater. My favorite song that Aimee Mann performed was the last one, written by Harry Nilson, "One Is the Loneliest Number." The song was made famous by Three Dog Night. Aimee Mann's haunting rendition brought out the song's sadness.
Sunday Poets: Susan Chiavelli, Katie Ingram, Sojourner K Rolle, Fran Davis, Steve Beisner, Melinda Palacio,
Toni Lorien, Alison Bailey and Marcia Meier

A few days later, I participated in the 10th annual SantaBarbara Sunday Poets read at the Book Den. The facebook invite looked pretty grim with six people going and five maybes. However, we ended up with a standing room only crowd that snaked to the door. Many of the numerous weekend book browsers stayed for our event. The Book Den is Santa Barbara's oldest bookstore, established in 1902, and Eric Kelley recently celebrated his 35th year as owner. Eric didn't have enough chairs for our poetry fans, but it was wonderful being surrounded by books and people while we read spring poems in honor of poetry month. I love it when poetry elicits such enthusiasm.
SRO Crowd for Sunday Poets at the Book Den

Last Wednesday, April 26, was World Book Night, where people around the globe give away books on Shakespeare's birthday. Poet Emma Trelles signed up to be a book giver and enlisted my help. When I arrived at the bookstore, they had an extra box of poetry books. We stopped people on the street and plied them with a free book of 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Phillip Smith, or a novel by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper's Wife.
World Book Takers and Giver

Cyclist Ryan was happy to receive free books.

This lady was on her way to the library to return a book.
She couldn't believe we were giving her  free books.

Emma is really good with talking to strangers, and talking in general. Her journalism skills are always on. Listen to her interview on the Writer's Cafe; she sort of takes over towards the end. 
Emma listening to a lecture on Andre Breton, surrealism and guitars.

When our first possible book receiver approached, I thought we would never complete our mission because Emma proceeded to listen to a lengthy discussion on Breton, surrealism, and one man's fantasy of a guitar using a keyboard. In addition to being a good talker, Emma is a good listener (the sign of a good poet). Listen to her poems on theWriters Cafe. Emma Trelles was the 2010 Andres Montoya Poetry Prize Winner. The 2014 winner is Fresno's David Campos for his collection, Pica.

We sure had a lot of fun giving away books. Of the experience, Emma Trelles said:

"My favorite part of WBN was seeing the delight in people's faces when we put books in their hands. It reminded me of the power of print and of literature. Standing outside in the sunshine and talking about reading was a pretty great way to spend an afternoon."

 Upcoming April Events

April 30, UCSB Little Theatre, 4pm
May 2, First Friday Phoenix, 6:30 pm at Obliq Gallery

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