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Sun, May. 10th, 2009, 09:05 pm
Featuring My Feature


On Tuesday night I was a featured poet at the "Lee Mallory and the Factory Readings Present . . ." night at the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana, California. The opportunity was overwhelmingly gracious and fulfilling, as I began reading my poetry publicly only less than a year ago, and Orange County seems to have a rich poetry community of which I'm now proud to be a part. Further, the event was promoted on the OC Weekly website, which I've read for years, and at the Gypsy Den, a coffee shop I've frequently wished I went to more frequently.

A few months ago, Jaimes, one of my acquaintances from the open mic I've been attending at the Ugly Mug Cafe in Orange, asked if I'd be willing to feature, particularly since he liked a biting, open letter I'd written and read to some seemingly incompetent Craigslist job posting respondents. I had months to prepare a set list, and, believe me, a fifteen to twenty minute feature set requires a little more forethought than the rattling off I usually do for five minutes or less at the open mic. I wanted to impress with a body of work, and specifically offer a thematic context for my motivation in writing poetry. Of course, I didn't give the night serious thought until last week -- just like an artist, I reckon.

So, scouring over my work over the past few years, I discovered a few common themes: nostalgic reflections or observations of youth; silly, almost nonsensical thoughts about love, sex, and romance (and it's important to note these are three distinct things); commentary on how to live, and effectively how to die. Recognizing these themes as analogous to the life cycle itself, from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, I essentially put them in that order, and in a last minute bid to appear eclectic transitioned these "stages" with third party work. While all of these poems aren't available on-line yet, I feel compelled to outline this mentality, if only for my own sake -- so, my original set list looked like this:

I. Childish Ways
1. in Just -- (by e.e. cummings)
2. Where the Luck Goes
3. Cat: A Tonic
4. The Last Ride
5. For Whom the Recess Bell Tolls

II. Adolescent Angst
1. The Censor (by Mason Jennings)
2. The Duality of Woman: A Haiku
3. At Least Somebody's Having Fun
4. Hook-Up
5. Arcade Affair
6. Tiny Little Spot (from the testimony of Monica Lewinsky)

III. Grown-up Breakdown
1. An Open Letter to Craigslist Job Posting Respondents
2. Sound Effects
3. Against the Fall
4. Mr. Webster (my obligatory poetic cover of a Monkees tune)
5. Picking Up the Party
6. An Answer for Everything

The other features last night were singer/songwriter Nancy Sanchez and fellow poet Jeanette Encinias, and I went last, which I likened to a twist in an M. Night Shyamalan movie: "This was really wonderful to watch right up until now, wasn't it?" Since I passed out mini-maracas to shake in leiu of clapping for my poems, and I had a pinata head in my bag to represent the "unseen victims of Cinco de Mayo" (which I asserted with the exclamation, "The streets run red with candy tonight!"), I knew I'd default to silliness in times of onstage anxiety. So, I cut a few pieces, especially "in Just --," "Against the Fall" and "Picking Up the Party," which I replaced with "The Uncanny Exgirlfriends" to celebrate the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Generally, these grasps at humor seemed well received, especially since Jaimes is infamous for his whooping laugh. Really, as the guy that booked me, he was my target audience anyway.

Well -- I feel good about it! I hope I get to do it again, and that I can muster the confidence to write more, and more serious material, depending on the circumstances and the forum. Thankfully, because of the holiday, the crowd was essentially just friends of the features, but I feel like the very context of the night was my audience, what with the OC Weekly and this guilty pleasure of a coffee house, the Gypsy Den, in surrogate attendance. My very artistic ambitions were in virtual attendance . . . and they'd come back for more, if they saw my name in lights again. I hope they'd be joined by a sense of reputation, too.