Just got back from Larry Jaffe's "Another West: Poets from Our Community" at the Well's Fargo Theater in the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. The night was a blast! Some people might have been there for the "11-11 for 9-11" reading that Larry hosted there on November 11 as a benefit for the victims of 9-11, but I wasn't able to make it -- which made going there tonight a very pleasant surprise. The Well's Fargo Theater is a 300-seat theater (I'm guessing) with great acoustics and a great sound system. (Just not competing with an espresso machine was exciting enough.) There were about 10 open readers (There were actually more open readers, but Larry only selected about 10 to perform. The night apparently has a strict time limit.) who read one or two pieces each. There were some ups and downs with the open readers, but in general it was an exceptionally good night of poetry.
Wayman Barnes and Frankie Drayus of LitRave read. Frankie rocked. Wayman rolled. (Yes, that's a compliment.) Alice Pero did a damn fine job on no notice. Leslie Neal done herself proud. Larry Jaffe read "Unprotected Poetry" which got a great response from the audience. Carmen Vega, one of the features, did several pieces that demonstrated that she has an absolutely tremendous singing voice.
The standout was Jerry Quickley, the evening's other feature, who did a really solid set that moved the audience. I've been a fan of Jerry's since he was reading at open mic's at the Cobalt Cafe in the early nineties, and he's one of the most consistently good performance poets I've heard.
There were more than 100 people in attendance, which sounds like a lot for a poetry reading, but they were so spread around the room that it felt sparse and poorly attended. It wasn't until I actually looked around and started counting heads that I realized how many people were there. The audience, though not exactly what I would call electric, was attentive and enthusiastic.
I read "Walking Down Winston," which got a great response. A lot of people really seemed to like it. I was glad they enjoyed it, but I wasn't entirely happy with my performance. I was kind of running on autopilot -- there are parts of the poem I don't even remember reading. I may have given a good performance (I'm not sure) but if I did, it was a mechanically good performance. I definitely wasn't feeling the reality of the words I was reading.
The acoustics were good enough that I don't think I needed the microphone -- but I kind of regret not using it, since it was a good mic in a good room with a professional at the sound board. Still, I need to get much better with a mic before I'll feel as comfortable as I do just projecting to the room.
Another problem I'm trying to solve with this poem and several others is related to audience reaction. There's a couple of lines in "Walking Down Winston" that are just damn funny -- and I'm puzzling how to give people permission and space to laugh without stepping on the poem or seeming like I'm more of a comedian than a poet. If they catch the laugh I'll pause and let it go by, but sometimes it really seems like they're afraid to laugh.
I'm definitely planning to go back. It was a good night. Larry should be proud.