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Bohemeo’s Down, 6 More To Go

Last night the heat disbursed just enough for one of Houston’s rare, brisk hygienic summer evenings designated by outdoor music, variety-pack string lights splashing the grass with mottled shadows of color, beer condensating on tables and a reposed clientele leaning back in plastic chairs, laconically fanning themselves or hooting and hollering, abruptly waking for applause.


Oh, Texas. This first week of August has a particular cruelty for us, unlike other states, we know there will be no substantive cooling off. But the courtyard of Bohemeo’s was full. The baristas and bartenders convincingly proved they’re the best coffee shop staff in Houston. Jessica, the manager, gave us her establishment for the umpteenth time, allowing us to kick-off our lil’ ol’ annual poetry celebration. Ten years old today.


What was the scene? Poets and writers standing in the lawn, sprawled on the grass, propped against fence railings, or paired off underneath the short trees or the wide rim of that ponderous fountain, -- it wasn’t like other readings, more like a concert, more like a family reunion. Lupe Mendez asks, when all the poets are freshly gathered and we are drawing lots for the night’s reading order, who has done this before? Whose first time here? He asks again as the emcee for the night, this time the general audience. Hands shoot up from the crowd, people laugh and jeer and tease each other. Family, near and far. Many first timers and many more too long in absentia.


One by one the poets took the stage, they’d perform one round robin with one poem each, then after each writer has taken the stage, a second round. This was no piety contest. I told one poet, don’t thank us - you earned your spot. It’s true. Everyone performed with wit and charm and surplus. Poets distributed alms for this summer of intensity and reckoning, poets prayed, they wired and submitted laughter to the good-hearted moans of the pleased crowd. We spent an unbelievably long time on biographies and introductions, these accomplished poets would be better served with an infinity symbol by their headshots.


As sometimes happens in these old, massive and well-intentioned meetings, groups splintered off and trickles of laughter and conversation could be heard around the stage if you pulled yourself away to hear it, but as family reunions go -- meeting writers for the first time and reconnecting with distant, long-rumored acquaintances -- it was never an ordeal, never rose above the microphone’s caress.


Last night’s focus, I think, was to introduce ourselves and set the terms of this week’s contributions. I can’t wait for tonight, and the rest of the week, when poets start becoming colleagues, then competitors, editors even. And, by week’s end, each other’s cheerleaders.


Here’s to ten years! Here’s to our poet family! To last night and  the nights to come!



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  • Response
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