A "Live For Art" Column by
Beatlick Pamela Hirst
FIXED AND FREE:
MARCH 1 AT THE SOURCE
By Beatlick Pamela Hirst
Billy Brown hosted a familiar crowd at The Source on Carlisle with a few new faces thrown in. It is good to see the local poetry audience expand with fresh faces and talent. Features included author and stage actress Eleanor Grogg Stewart as well as Kenneth P. Gurney, publisher and host of the “Adobe Walls” anthologies and open mics.
Eleanor, in her signature pink rhinestone ball cap, went first. Declining to read from her published novel “Not Only A Refugee,” an American UN volunteer experience in the Philippines, which is fairly familiar to usual attendees at Adobe Walls or Dime Stories.
Instead Eleanor focused on works from an upcoming book, “Falling Into Enchantment: Poems from the 1970s in Santa Fe.” Eleanor is taking a modern approach and supporting her efforts to publish this new book with crowd funding, something Julie Brokken did quite successfully on a recent art project.
The former New York actress gave a riveting reading as she reminisced about her time spent up in Santa Fe. Most compelling was her poem delving into the effects of alcoholism on young American Indian men. Her acting and emotive talents were truly on display at this point. Her every breath was so emotive that everyone’s eyes went straight ahead, directly focused on her. We were all passing around photos of Eleanor in full Shakespearean costume taken in Central Park locations back in the apex of her acting career. Long fair hair, slender nymphet figure, it was wonderful seeing her in her glory. She holds two degrees in theater and an M.A. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
One of the familiar faces was Greg Candela, professor emeritus at UNM, where he taught multiple writing and theater courses. First poem was around the theme of Yellowstone, then a sonnet. Greg, a professor of technical writing, commented that writing in this form was not something he did often. He concluded with a tribute poem for his wife.
Stewart Warren confessed he didn’t write for over a year and is just now back in the game. He is author of 16 poetry collections and the owner of Mercury HeartLink, so I guess he did deserve a break. Back at work, he will participate in a collaborative book presentation of “The Necessity of Brokenness” with Maggi Petton at Bookworks on Saturday, March 22. And it is to the listener’s benefit that Stewart is back in the game, his use of metaphor and analogy is spell binding to me. His poems serve as the “green sprouts of his goodness.”
“Sometimes I am a silent word holding a rest in the harmonies of us … in timelessness I wait my turn.”
“Your past appears to hang from a scaffold though you’ve come to know yourself right side up, as levitation.“ And indeed this is the line inspiring the clever artwork for the book.
Second feature Kenneth Gurney apologized for sniffles as he drank from a water bottle to combat his allergies to juniper and leaned his lanky frame toward the crowd.
Billy Brown calls him a "shining light in the heaven of Albuquerque’s poetry scene” ... for his Adobe Walls anthologies. He holds a BA in Art from Rockford College.
Kenneth opened with a baseball poem to pay homage to Chicago, the scene of his boyhood, and Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, and what Kenneth says, “Mirrors the simplicity of some moral truth.”
He situates a baseball passing over “the open heart of home plate” into a humorous scenario of a ball being knocked out of the park as the “tongues pop corkscrew opinions.”
Lines of “Echoes” were poignant yet realistic addressing the ticket we all hold to the other side:
“When death opens the door hesitate … but do not look back … go … leaping with full faith.”
One of his best lines of the entire presentation: “All the bravado of a shore leave sailor.”
“Proof Sheet” explored the experience of a photographer caught without his camera and had to use his skill of language instead of a camera to document a moment.
There was semblance of a political rant when Kenneth remembered one of his experiences at the Canadian border. He got the full shakedown while a man in a wheelchair and missing a leg, with “Semper Fi” emblazoned on his t-shirt, got waved through. Kenneth was wearing a beret.
“I would have been more suspicious about what was up that empty pants leg,” he said. “And don’t show up at the Canadian Border with a beret on!”
Another master of metaphor and analogy Kenneth resurrected one of his ongoing themes: The woman who swims across the sky.
“She speaks in rainfall torrents,” “filling glasses of water for children at bedtime,” “returns to earth as both ends of the rainbow.”
Kenneth finished up with a return to baseball and his poem “Attendant” and a mention of his latest book “Curvature of a Fluid Spine.”
Richard Wolfson brought the house down when he began with a quip to Greg Candela, still in the audience, “I always write in sonnets, Greg. I’ve had brain damage, so then I know when the poem is over.”
Billy is celebrating the fifth year as host of Fixed and Free, which originated in a bike shop. No wonder it continues on as it is a great source of inspiration, not only the words of the poets, but the poets themselves who gather there the fourth Thursday of the month from January through October. Find out more at:
One of the things I was really struck by at this get together was how many people had poetry events booked, so many that there are numerous conflicts these days if you are trying to stay loyal to some particular poets. It is my humble opinion one of the reasons poetry flourishes in this town is because there isn’t a major league sports team to suck all the energy out of the air.
Nashville, where I come from, truly changed when the Oilers/Titans came to town. It was impossible to get publicity about poets anymore because all the papers wanted to do was write about the Titans. It funneled their sales. And the bars all started focusing on sports, overhead TVs for the games, and it became a lot harder to book a gig. The Beatlicks never had to guarantee a bar profit in order to book a gig but these days you have to guarantee a minimum profit for the bar or make up the difference yourself. Albuquerque reminds me of Nashville in the good times, poetry venues thrived and the talent was incredible. Just like Duke City is now!