We’re official. The Mayor decreed it. Houston’s poet laureate seconded it. One thing we haven’t been pushing as much as I’ve expected is the ten year anniversary of the Tour. That’s alright, though. What’s cooler than not having to say it -- better still, what’s cooler than just having awesome things happen without making a big deal about it. Like having venues ask us back for next year, a year in advance. Like having the Mayor come out and hang with us, do some photo ops (yes), but also picking up everything our poets are dropping.
So. The venue is amazing, we show up and start doing our thing - clearing space of tables and setting up arrangement of chairs. There’s a projector with the WAT tour logo on the wall we’re fiddling with, I wish it were floating up and down like something from the Soul Train special effects department, but…still, we’re pushing buttons on walls, monkeying with the lights, etc. when a hulking security guard in a trim suit shows up, ear piece and all, asking if there's going to be a poetry reading tonight. The mayor’s advance-man! Lupe Mendez’s random tweeting worked. She read saw the tweet, followed the link and came. And, now we can’t be so cynical about new media, can we?
Listen, we have the best poets. We have a great fistul of soulful poets who didn’t shirk or shy away from reading (for the fourth night in a row) in front of the Mayor and her poet laureate, Prof. Robin Davidson, a long time supporter and great friend of the tour.
Rain was the sacrifice. (I’m looking at my notes, recuperating from last night [Alley Kat, more on that later]) It started with a bang, her surprise-twist ending M. Night-inspired poem about unrequited love not being there when you need it -- won’t give away the ending. But it started a theme for the night that was tentative but there, about motherhood. Chris Crawford shattered us before the night even starting taking off about an early death, trauma, and childhood.
Royal gave the Mayor some of her own agenda in “Houston, we have a problem,” reminding us about the sex trafficking dark side of our city “rebirthed by Katrina” and the fairy tale aspect of forgetting, “how many poisoned apples can we eat before we throw up.” It exemplified that maternal wisdom the rest of the night continued: “Please, little black babies, don’t become untold history and endangered statistics.”
Winston did his trickster poems. There’s no slicker guy out there. I think of Winston as a baseball player, a pitcher to be exact: he can throw anything across the plate you want: hard truth, curved truth, screwball comedy. Last night at the podium he gave us some funny naming puns, but even in the act of naming there was again that maternal atmosphere of who is given what suitable name and, in a loving way, it had to do with how we are with each other.
Lupe’s piece followed suit. A piece about being the sideman during a love one’s sickness, bad health. This is something I know well, and Lupe speaks on it magically: “they ask if I am taking care of you,” but all he can do is soothe her and make soup, the simple household chores and little tasks that don’t seem like they amount to much. Oh, Lupe. My heart breaks thinking about it all over again.
Ha. And here my notes end! Your correspondent isn’t so faithful, he rather watch the performers than take notes. The rest is faulty memory.
Jonathan Moody did two pieces, one was what he read for the Draft this year, about getting. it. on. It’s sexy and “moody,” in all the right ways, but so sincere and, also, heartbreaking. Still, it’s better to hear it. I was joking with Jonathan about having specific intro music before a poet goes onstage, like WWE wrestlers, something that would get attached to them like a cue, and for Jonathan I would pull something from Prince’s early catalogue, Sign o’ the Times era. Also, and I’m stretching the theme here, it was about being able to/or not take care of someone. Like Lupe’s piece, like mine (about an affair between a teacher and student) and Rain’s.
Jordan expounded on a subject he had brought up the night before, illness, and how to better take care of himself - learning what was going into his body, the chemistry, the treatment, the difficulty. Kool B closed us out on a similar note, friends come and gone and the steady old reliable way of treating yourself with a pen and paper. That relevancy.
Willow St. Pump Station is a great venue, we’d been here once before, but tonight gave us a little more legitimacy (and a few poets who took selfies with the mayor) of not just how long we’ve been in Houston doing our thing, but where we can go, who we can get to hear us, and how respected and wide-reaching our audience can get. Who knows where we’ll go from here. I got plans, man, I got plans.