Saturday, November 15, 2008

Broadside Press Poets’ Theater: I was there

Last night I attended the debut of Broadside Press Poets’ Theater at the University of Detroit Mercy and I must say I was impressed. For one thing, the weather was crappy and yet 40 people still found their way to Grounds Coffeehaus (a good space for a reading, though the lighting sucks) for poetry.

A guy from Broadside Press (I failed to write down his name) kicked things off by reading "A Different Image" by Dudley Randall, who founded Broadside Press in 1965 and used to work at UDM as a librarian. The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture at UDM is, obviously, named after him.

Aurora Harris, whom I have never seen read before, read next and was quite good. A lot of the work she read had to do with her racial identity (she said she was half black and half Filipino).

Jessica Care Moore was next and I have definitely seen her read before. I don't think you forget a Jessica Care Moore reading. Her work is good, but her stage presence is even better. She's just a very funny, very acerbic person who isn't afraid to say whatever is on her mind (she told us, for example, that her favorite word is "motherfucker"). She read a really incredible poem about naming her two-year-old son King.

After she was done reading she encouraged audience members to pick up some books by Broadside and Moore Black Press, her own. "Y'all buy some books," she said. "I need some diapers."

The two did a Q&A session with the audience and when asked what poets inspired them, Harris, who has been writing since age seven, said, "I wasn't inspired by any poets. I was inspired by racism."

Both Harris and Moore talked about the stigmatism of being pegged as "performance poets." They feel that label causes them to not be taken as seriously as poets who do "readings" as opposed to "performances." Neither woman considered herself a performance poet and both emphasized that they are writers.

An open mic that was only somewhat painful (a rare feat at any poetry reading) followed. Kudos to the kid who got up to read his poems for the first time. I don't remember his name, but he was nervous and when he finished he bounded back to his seat saying, "I'm going to tell my mama." It was pretty adorable.

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