I invited a friend to a poetry reading. 6 years ago this would have been a normal request of any of my friends. But now I’m a mom. Now most of my friends are mothers and working mothers and mothers with working-OT-husbands–thus my mom-friends are working-OT-mothers–and single working mothers and mothers worried about where their kids are going to kindergarten next year and most of the poet friends I have/had are elsewhere. Like at the AWP. Or deep into their 2nd or 3rd poetry manuscripts. Or growling in academia. Or in Venice, CA, light years away from my scorched valley. Places I rarely frequent, though not from a lack of respect.
The last major poetry reading I went to was 4 or so years ago in a Hollywood rainstorm. I went alone. Poets were rude. Poets hated each other and were snide and critical of poetry (other poets’ poetry, the world) at the reception, where everyone heard everyone else’s gripes. Poets. Behaved. Badly. On my way home, the wipers working so furiously they were about to fly off the windshield, all of Hollywood out in their cars on the stormiest night of the year and driving (how else?) atrociously, I called my husband and declared I was never again leaving he and our son for poetry.But my mom-friend said yes, so I picked up her up in the minivan and we zoomed to Pasadena. “I’ve long admired the featured reader,” I explained. But my friend didn’t require any explanation. She’d been mommying overtime. She was happy to have a break from domestics.
Old Town. I’d forgotten: that busy, twinkle-lights-charm. A warm, balmy Sunday. Swept sidewalks and old-fashioned street lamps in a gold twilight, jazz wafting from open cafe windows. We walked through a pretty brick corridor to an L-shaped boutique and there was the venue, mod, hung in paintings by local artists, MOCA-like cement floor (so that when that person’s coffee cup was kicked by the guest coming in late, spillage was no biggie), sunken lighting. My friend and I claimed metal chairs, nudged elbows, relaxed. The open mic portion of the reading, the often awkward bit before the featured reader, commenced.
Fast forward to 90 minutes later, Sushi Roku, its trendy bamboo displays and tiki-with-a-facelift atmosphere a brief walk from the poetry reading. My friend and I stuffed our mouths with spicy tuna on crispy rice. We discussed the reading, analyzed mommying, repeatedly commented on being out on a Sunday night, how weird, how wonderful. ”I loved that guy’s poem about his childhood books,” my friend said, sipping her sparkling blueberry sake, in synch with the evening, a flower of the evening, certainly one of the evening’s brightest twinkles. I agreed with her, and whether I liked any of the poets, open-mic poets or my acclaimed featured poet, or not, was irrelevant. The little event mattered, that people showed up for poetry, to listen or to read. They showed up. With hope and with smiles and with gifts and supportive applause.
It’s good to be a grown-up.