Sunday, October 11, 2009

Send in the Cows

Female Band Serenading CowsImage by Wisconsin Historical Society via Flickr

Quite a successful P. Finley Memorial Poetry salon last night, I think.

Pawler hosted it at a spacious quintessential Berkeley house where she was pet sitting -- by quintessential I mean same-sex couple, three cats, a dog, lots of original architectural touches (including picture molding) that settle one down, as if the past is something which one need not flee just because we are locked firm in our embrace of the future.

The usual suspects shone -- The Wieder's "dumb superman" bit; McKenney's double whammy of Wallace Stevens and John Keats; a D-Hard poem from his Dylan Thomas' period. And speaking of Dylans, Newblood Mort read the lyrics to Desolation Row to great effect. (From such mash we brew our potent joy.)

There was more of a goodly nature, but let us cutteth to the chaseth, to the surprises. Pawler finished off the evening with a very effective personal essay involving the 303 books that were listed in the inventory of her father's estate during the time she duelled with sibs and established a conservatorship for his drifting self. (Ancillary point: The lawyers ripped off the estate by producing such a detailed inventory.)

The books were bookends for her essay -- and the spine of it, too -- as she paid tribute to the old man and the churn of love and hate we call family. It was touching and well done, and I suppose that was no surprise at all, Miss Pawler, but you never know what will happen when you toss someone into the cleanup slot at a salon. Lovely writing and lovely telling.

So the *real* surprise was David's telling of what it was like to do real harvesting on a real farm, a dairy farm in Wisconsin, somewhere East of Eden (Green Bay, actually). The declared salon theme was harvest, and people stuck to it to a startling degree. (I was startled. Salonistas are loathe to be told.)

David's reminiscence was short and detailed, about all the planting and reaping that milking 30 cows entailed. The *surprise* lay in the reaction. Let me tell something to my disadvantage. As emcee, concerned with nothing more than pace and none with joy, behaving as one might do running a chain gang, I was ready to give a quick back pat and move on. But Big Pat intervened, asking David about the smells of harvest and of the storing of the sweet, sour, flammable product.

And suddenly, and almost without precedent, we had a discussion of the details of farm life and of the possibility of city agriculture. I don't recall such a moment of real connection at a salon before. Oh sure we will ooooh and ahhhhhh at beauty, giggle when startled, wince when offended. But such give and take!

I call it Salon 2.0.


If Pawler steps up into the salon rotation and Lyle and Matt step up after Lyle's return from New Mexico, maybe we can jump start yet another cycle of salons, with me and E. doing our share but not making it our show. Pawler's was the first salon in mygod two years? I do love the salons. They mutate, it seems. Who would have thought we would find such pleasure in silage?


E. said hey boyo. Why you dint mention Susana's tribute to Sukkos, Gayle's beautiful Mary Oliver's, Daniel's autobiographical evocation of pain and connection and Kate's tales from a doomed garden?

And I said: oops.

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