The 1999 Albuquerque Poetry Festival is now history.
The festival was its usual raucous self, though we didn't make it to all the events. Getting a little old I guess.
Of those two or three of you who read this column, I'm not sure what you envision when you hear the word "poet." Your imagination might conjure a slightly hunched late thirties goatee cigarette navy blue beret coffee breath beatnik. Or perhaps a fullbeard pipesmoking grayhaired three piece doublebreasted academic. It's unlikely that you'll think of a woman. We had many of those. In fact, we had a drag queen hosting one event. At least he was billed as a drag queen. I was looking forward to some fancy makeup and high heels. But this guy didn't even shave. And his tennis shoes were a disgrace. Definitely a DAV thrift store drag queen.
The oratorial gathering that occurs during February in Albuquerque has entropy at its core, but events are scheduled over 6 days. It can be rather hard to distinguish the readings but they do have themes. There is one for local poets, one for Chicano poets, one for Women poets, one for Lesbian poets from San Francisco, one based around the featured poet who this year was Edwin Torres from New York, one for poets from Chicago and Austin, and the piéce de resistánce: The Super Slam. Click here if you don't know what a "poetry slam" is.
The Super Slam held Saturday night was won, believe it or not, by the man at right. We were leaving [finally] at 1:30am and encountered him on the sidewalk in front of the El Rey Theater, where the event was held. I wasn't sure if he had just won the slam or just chugged a quart of Jack Daniels. Perhaps both. The slam was great though a little long, as they tend to be. And BTW, his name is not pronounced 'Irene,' it's pronounced 'Aaron.' Eirean, fittingly as slam champion, gives pretty much the average look of the AbqPoFest participant; the Bay Area dykes known as Sister Spit notwithstanding.
The slam had its usual drama along with some unusual comedy. The photo at left shows the hosts, Danny Solis from Albuquerque and Noel Franklin from Seattle. The other two guys are Jim Stewart and Kenn Rodriguez. Jim was having trouble tallying scores (I think he'd been drinking) so Kenn jumped in and helped.
I've always had only a peripheral involvement in our local poetry festival, now in its fourth year, doing the webpage schedule and handling some of the e-communication required. The organizers put together a festival anthology and some of the poems come in through email. This indicates the major difference between me and the other poetry activists in town. I'm just about the only one who is wired. This was fun for me during the fest -- walking up to poets who I had already met virtually through email. That's always fun. But since I've basically retired from the spoken word aspect of writing, I tend to wonder what I'm doing there. I'm a lot older than most of the participants. I'm now married -- no longer the grim loner who writes poems and reads them at open mics, trying to give his life meaning. So, I've taken the role of supporter. About the time the festival started, I realized that the local "scene" did not need more poets, it needed listeners. Poets tend to have ego problems and I'm no exception, so I decided to practice humility, and this was no mistake. We do usually enjoy listening though I tend to be critical of the angst-ridden tripe that always surfaces at these events. I just have to remember that once was me, and maybe if that person continues on the path of the poet, they will find what they are looking for. Too, since the other poets don't live online to the extent that I do, interacting with them helps me to keep one foot in the non-virtual world. It's easy to forget to do this. And I will always prevent myself from becoming completely mainstream. Staying close to poetry, even if I don't write much of it anymore, keeps me on the fringes, where I really belong.
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