Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last Sunday's Poetry Salon

1835 Version of Amazing Grace (New Britain)Image via Wikipedia

If your prime criterion for a prime poetry salon is remembering such with pleasure, and revisiting that memory more than once, last Sunday's evening in the homespace of Gayle and Richard was indeed primo.

The theme was music. Yours truly -- shyly; urged on by a loving crowd -- read Browning's "A Toccata of Galuppi's." (I am a modest man, but I have to admit I fell in love with myself all over again.) Then Gayle read a poem by some Southern poet, one "Bo" De Lare -- never heard of himself but the rest of the gang nodded knowingly.

Our guestess of honor Tashery flipped the deal. Instead of reading something of her own, she played a recording of a piece of hers that won a Pushcart prize some time ago, the piece read by Edi Gathegi of "Twilight" fame at a Pushcart Press benefit in June. (A very vigorous *sexy* reading -- in the spirit of my Browning.)

First half finished with Paula and Kate, to the background of some jazz licks, doing a contrapuntal improvisatorial reading of Leonard Feather (jazz legend writer) interviewing Dr. Yusuf Lateef (jazz legend jazzer) in which Doc Lateef came off as nutty but fun: Don't call it jazz, he said. Call it Autophysiopsychic music, he said.

Which we did. Several times.

Now all this was wondrous, indeed, but then the Lady E. upped the ante right up to the empyrean. Inspired by worry that we weren't actually going to sing anything during an evening devoted to music she prevailed upon our host to print out some copies of "Amazing Grace." To lead off the second half of the night, she shared some stories, and some tears, about growing up in Africa and hearing the locals sing "Amazing Grace" a Capella in the missionary chapel her father built, and of her mother's recent death and of the part that wonderful old hymn played in her funeral.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house, or in my face anyway. And then we sang it all together.

Hostess Gayle than read an excerpt from her current novel in which the principals attend a macabre musical performance in the catacombs of Paris, a beautifully written bit that left me more than a little uneasy about her heroine's future romantic entanglements.

(Just occurred to me! That was the point! Oh the emotional sinuosity of powerful prose.)

Troubadour Mort stroked his mighty guitar and sang us a Dylan song -- sang it wonderfully -- and then led us in singing "As I Went Down in the River to Pray."

Damn, people. We were *good*.

To preserve the delicate mood, Bobby W. led us in singing scandalous blasphemous parodies of hitherto unsoiled Christmas carols.

Well, of course, once more I was in *tears* but this time not the good kind.

But I have to admit that his parody of "The Little Drummer Boy" with rum-pum-pum-pum replaced by Barack Obama (Barack Obama) has redeemed, nay elevated, the original. And if Bob W. sends me a copy, it will receive its Net debut right here.

All good things must end. Brother Jon read two Dylan poems -- Dylan, the One, not Dylan the Zimmerman -- "Fern Hill" and .... The second was an old man's poem, or Thomas's young-man vision of being an old man, quite an inconvenient state, and *being* an old man, my memory washes it off. (There. All gone.)

Jon read them beautifully, though. It was really quite a special salon, which makes two in a row. I think we shall crank one up here come early February. Needs a theme, though. Suggestions?

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