It’s been awhile since I’ve been downtown to soak up the poetry scene. Not that I’ve been slacking off, but I’ve been spending some long hours preparing manuscripts for press and that cuts into writing, reading and listening to poetry.
When my wife and I entered the café we were pleasantly surprised to find the publisher and editor of The Indie reading at Blind Date with Poetry. THE INDIE October issue hit the streets this week and features banner stories by Michael Hopping and Gaither Stewart. I contributed a small, no pun intended, chapbook review of RedLine Blues.
The featured poet last night was Jaye Bartell, author of Makes a Bird and contributor to As/Is and Malaprop’s employee. Last time I heard Jaye read was at Bobo’s. It was the first time my wife heard him read and she was impressed.
We had previously attended a poetry reading a couple months ago that featured two poets with multiple books and academic degrees between them and, well, it was a tepid reading. Actually, “tepid” is far too polite . . . I will not repeat the comments I made to my wife after the reading, but I do not think it is too much to expect celebrated poets with such credentials to read with authority and authenticity. However, the tepid reading was mere sloganeering and sophomoric. My wife thought the two poets were pandering to the Asheville crowd, or what they thought the Asheville audience would enjoy. As someone from Asheville, I felt insulted.
But last night, Jaye read his poems with self-conscious authenticity. It is my impression he wasn’t expecting to read. I don’t know if there was a cancellation, but he stepped in and he did a fine job. There is a quick wit and nice precision to his short poems. One can tell he enjoys playing with words, both how they look on the page and how they sound on the lips. I remembered his poem about Vermont from Bobo’s and my wife and I both enjoyed his final poem about cardinals.
Hearing Jaye read last night encouraged me to return to my stack of neglected poems and reconsider submitting them to pulishers. Recently, I have felt I should give up on poetry, but it seems it hasn’t given up on me. Still, later last night when asked to read some of my poems, I couldn’t do it. I can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t.