Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Recharging at Battery

Rodríguez Harris Round-Robin Fills Pasadena's Indie Battery Books
Michael Sedano

The two poets reading in a local bookstore I'd never set foot in offered a powerful lure. Luis J. Rodríguez and Peter J. Harris need to be experienced in writing and in person and together, and they were reading in Pasadena at Battery Books at the city's least amenable to foot traffic address. Siri knew where it was but damned if I had confidence in where she was leading me. But I have an imperative tonight. It's the night of the day my wife went into Memory Care and just like that, I am living alone. 

Tonight, I test my sea legs as an independent entity. I'll deal with the guilt later, at having fun and being out among 'em without her. We hadn't done much going out the past few years as the Alzheimer's progression expressed itself by fatigue and agoraphobia. Gente came to Casa Sedano and that's how we got our poetry read aloud, the Living Room Floricanto.

Battery Books in Pasadena offers a warm ambiente for an evening of poetry on the town.

Thursday night at 8 o'clock comes with a relentlessness that limits the full house to dedicated listeners and aficionados of poetry in its fullest dimension. I expected the crowd to spill out the door onto dangerous Los Robles Avenue so I arrived extra temprano and got the best seat in the house.

These guys write kick-ass poetry. These guys write break-your-heart-for-all-sorts-of-reasons poetry. Poetry that breaks your heart for its stories and voices of tragedy, privation, desperation, love. Poetry that breaks your heart for being il miglior fabbro stuff. Rodríguez is the emeritus Poet Laureate of the City of LosAngeles, that kind of quality. I don't know why Harris hasn't been named to a Laureateship, that breaks your heart.

Poets who missed it should be heart broken to miss not just a reading but a virtuoso recital of patter, selection, performance, and the work, of course, the poetry.

Reading your stuff aloud honors poetry qua art, and is the only reward the poet receives for the labor of carving "another sliver of my heart" as rrsalinas called his work.

These guys are chingones when it comes to showing other poets how a poet honors their own art, all that sweat and heart labor to produce those words on the page. The oral recital raises the words off the page into the life and fullest possible experience with the poem. If ever there's an answer to the question "what does it mean?" all you have to do it listen to the poet read aloud.  When the poet gives thoughtful consideration to how to say it, that's what it says.

The poets talked about being roommates and camaradas during formative years back in Chicago. A host of audience members know this already and the camaraderie exhibited by the poets in the front of the room creates a feeling of fellowship that spreads out to the furthest rows. The poetry tonight comes out of their books, but also a few newly written pieces off typescript.

The round-robin presentation style engages the poets in an informal challenge. The challenge is not that of arm wrestlers but muses. Not a "top this" but "that reminds me of this one" selection strategy. During the Q&A, Rodríguez tells us he doesn't plan out his readings at all but lets the flow tell him what to choose.

The two poets share revolutionary outlooks but compose distinctly individual work. Harris disavows the sameness that spills out of MFA mouths and pens, admitting his early work echoes his imitation of migliori fabbri whom he hadn't realized were just holding a spot for Harris. And Rodríguez, who, like Harris, wasn't a schoolboy but emerges a pinto poet who becomes artist publisher Laureate. Tonight, Rodríguez shared a piece from his strung out day. There was a spark in that junkie and getting clean turned it loose. The poet celebrates his third decade of sobriety and productivity.

Peter J. Harris admitted Luis' first piece a tough act to follow. But not that tough. Harris offers polish and vocal music to carry off listeners in the rhythms and wordplay.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

Barbara would be so happy that you got to experience this! No guilt.