I haven’t been going out much lately. I didn’t even show up to the release party for the latest edition of be about it zine. I’ve been hermitting/hibernating and it’s been weird and maybe productive because I’m reading and writing in my little studio cave but I had been itching to go out, plus I had this idea for a new blog series about literary events that I wanted to try out, so I reached out to my poet friend Anna Avery to see if she wanted to come to this reading with me. It was at a bookstore I had never heard of or visited before, in a section of San Francisco that I don’t get out to very much. And I like both of the readers and couldn’t remember the last time I had seen either of them read.
It was a rainy day but we made our way into San Francisco and got there early enough for street parking. Bird & Beckett, located in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, is crammed with books in that glorious Disney’s Beauty & The Beast library-of-your-dreams way. Inside the store felt cozy and it was nice to see that plenty of people had already gathered by the time we arrived. It was a Sunday afternoon reading, after all, which generally draws in a different kind of crowd than the typical evening reading. There were children in attendance, and hardly anyone was “fashionably late.”
Sunnylyn Thibodeaux brought a King Cake, one her parents had shipped from New Orleans, to celebrate Mardi Gras (Tuesday, February 28). Both Thibodeaux and Lauren Levin originally hail from New Orleans. Levin’s mom is shipping her King Cake in the next few weeks, she said. The plastic baby in this King Cake was found in a slice early on, well before the reading had started. According to tradition, the person who finds the plastic baby will receive much luck and good fortune.
Once “poetry time” rolled around and the rest of the audience showed up, we took our seats and the owner of Bird & Beckett introduced the readers and talked a little about the books he makes and publishes, including Thibodeaux’s new poetry chapbook, What’s Going On.
Lauren Levin read first from her new book, The Braid, published by Krupskaya. Here are some lines that I heard and liked:
“the scaffolding that attends my mind when I think about someone I love”
“placid things or cold violence”
“like the gestures I make have time in them”
“I wrote a poem, now I get to go buy bras”
“shame as a desire for pleasure and a need to avoid pain”Sunnylyn Thibodeaux read next from What’s Going On. Here are some lines that I liked:
“the creator has a master plan known to cause respiratory problems”
“doomed from the get-go / the very best gifts come from the heart”
“on the one hand smoldered / on the other vitality”
“I orchestrated stillness so you didn’t have to know”
“what lines went gone when we spoke”
“the rift where the dead speak how-tos”
Some things I’ve learned by going to this reading:
- check out a new scene, it’s fun and you’re honestly holding yourself back if you limit yourself to the same types of events
- meet new people / talk to people in attendance, people are usually nice
- everyone who participates in the literary community is their own flavor of awkward so don’t feel too bad if the conversation is weird, the person you’re talking to is just as self conscious as you
- seriously, just tell that voice in your head to stop being so self critical, everyone thinks they’re bad at conversing (and if they don’t they’re probably a schmuck/not a real poet)
- if you let the people hosting the event know that you’re there to take photos and do a write-up, they will probably make 20% more eye contact with you throughout the event’s duration
- bringing a friend is always a great idea because it makes initiating conversations with strangers feel less desperate
- everyone appreciates it when you bring food to share at an event
I want to do this more often. I want to scope different kinds of art scenes out. I want to inspire other people in cities around the globe to do the same. Go do something different, embrace it, document it. I want to inspire fomo in the way that nightclub pics posted on social media do for so many people.
I really like event photography and write-ups and miss doing them for San Francisco fashion blogs and I thought of this idea while I was working out but I think it would be fun to incorporate the gossipy/carefree nature of Page 6-type articles, but in this case about the goings-on of people who create and participate in culture. I want to make literary happenings seem more like parties to outsiders, because they very much are to the people who attend.
I want to glamorize poetry readings because they feel glamorous to me.