We closed out 2018 with a phenomenal reading by Sam Roxas-Chua. Nearly an all-star gathering, some of the top names in Pacific Northwest poetry came out to support his reading and to share some of their own art. On such a night one can feel the essence of great poets past drawing close to revel in the creative energy that swelled in the Barnes and Noble bookstore that eve.
The ladies kicked off the event with author and award-winning poet, Penelope Scambly Schott, reading a harrowing piece that could not be more applicable to our current times. It was about a young girl who was too engaged in her phone to see the dangers, like an on-coming car, that were all around her. Incidents that would have caused serious injury not just to her but to those involved as well. I love modern technology and am all for global connections but we are born with two eyes, one of which should be taking in the life that is happening right in front of us.
Next up was Rosemary Douglas Lombard, writer and animal behaviorist, with a few charming poems about the humanity of turtles. It tied beautifully into Ms. Schott’s poem about not paying attention. At first glance, one might not think that a turtle would have much to offer but that’s only because we’ve never tried to connect with them. With all the time they’ve spent bearing witness to our activities, I’m sure turtles would have a lot to say. Animals are our greatest and most profound teachers if we are wise enough to listen.
Joyce Colson, who hosts the readings at the Paper Tiger coffeehouse and is author/editor of Eclectic Clutter magazine, treated us to her side-splitting, satirical poems; Pet Peeve and Cereal Killer! If you’ve never thought that poetry could be funny you’d be dead wrong. Combining stand-up with poetry, Ms. Colson is the master of turning the mundane events into comedic tales that can change one’s world view.
Concluding the first of our open mic sessions was Toni Lumbrazo-Luna. Ms. Lumbrazo-Luna is not only a fantastic poet but is also one-half of Printed Matter Vancouver and a dynamic writing duo with Christopher Luna. In addition to Printed Matter Vancouver, she and Mr. Luna have co-authored two Ghost Town Poetry anthologies and her own book, Wind Wing (published under Toni Partington). Ms. Lumbrazo-Luna shared a heartfelt, coming-of-age piece. Her crisp imagery painting a detailed picture set to a strong, rhythmic heartbeat that you could effortlessly feel those experiences as if they were your own.
Poet and visual artist, Sam Roxas-Chua was our featured poet for the night performing pieces from his books, ‘Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater’ and ‘Echolalia in Script – A Collection of Asemic Writing’. Asemic writing is an open form of calligraphy writing. Dating back to the Tang Dynasty, circa 800 CE, it combines text with image and is void of semantic meaning giving the reader the freedom of interpretation. Quoting from his website, “Asemic Writing allows me to communicate with my dead. It allows me to commune with the sacred, whatever that means for you.”
I was purely mesmerized as I watched Mr. Roxas-Chua create his asemic masterpiece while reciting his poetry. It was a dance with words as magical as a Tchaikovsky waltz. Mr. Roxas-Chua dedicated ‘Echolalia in Script – A Collection of Asemic Writing’ to “those abandoned at birth.” Born on February 14th to Filipino parents and later adopted by a Chinese family then later immigrating to America, Mr. Roxas-Chua sports a multi-lingual, multi-cultural background. He speaks Tagolog, Mandarin, Hokkien and English and integrates them into his writing. Deeply personal and moving stories provided unfathomable layers to each poem. The ink he uses for his asemic writing is his own concoction of squid ink, ashes from his mother’s clothes and soot. His poem, ‘When A Poem – for Glorianne’, was inspired by his birth-mom whom he met in 2012. For a time, you are taken into his heart, walking through his gardens to the river’s end. An experience tantamount to the first time you stood on top of a mountain and gazed far across creation. At the end of his reading, I was left feeling ten things at once and nothing I could name. A truly unforgettable experience.
Former Clark County Poet Laureate, host of Ghost Town Poetry and the other half of Printed Matter Vancouver, Christopher Luna launched the second open mic session. His latest book, ‘Message from the Vessel in a Dream’, was just released this past December. A virtuoso of collage poetry, a style that can best be described as rearranging the stars to create a new constellation, Mr. Luna’s poems are captivating. ‘I Blow You into the Dazzling Void’, even the title of this poem sets you up for an epic, galactic ride. My favorite line from it is “art, in the beginning for me, was never an avenue for self-expression. It was a way for me to ally myself with heroes because I couldn’t make contact with God.” The artistic experience summed up in two lines as we endeavor to understand what’s around us and give form to the ineffable.
Poetry Moves winner Denise Campbell shared a touching poem about breaking points and how they seem to come from innocuous sources. In that moment, the mind grasps what it can to find an anchor, to find reason and a way out of the seemingly insurmountable.
Last Tuesdays co-host, David Hill, spoke on the highlighted journals of the evening, ‘Writer’s Yearbook 2019’ and ‘Creative Nonfiction’ and then read a couple of short poems from actor Nico Tortorella’s debut poetry collection, ‘All of it is You’. An outspoken advocate for sexual and gender fluidity, Mr. Tortorella has become a strong voice for the LGBTQIA+ community. Described as a “journey into who we are and how we relate to the world around us, showing how the connections we make are vital to understanding why we are here.” Mr. Hill’s selections showed the lighter, more jocular stint of that journey.
A. Molotkov, the backpacking time-traveler and sage, brought us a new aspect of thought, dialogic philosophy. Dialogic philosophy “explains the world via our relationship to others versus from within ourselves.” His poem, ‘The Mission of Empathy’, was realized on the epigraph of dialogic philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, and contains one of my favorite lines from Mr. Molotkov’s poetry, “Here we are. Every String was pulled so we could meet.” If we put our life events on a wall; every occurrence, every person we’ve met, we realize things are not as random or coincidental as we’ve let ourselves believe. I can think of a couple of events without trying; a friend from work who turned out to be my cousin, a man I once dated was the first cousin of my best-friend from high school. Neither knew of the other’s existence before then. Mr. Molotkov has a way of showing you that north is not really north and maybe there is no north. My second favorite line came from another of his poems, ‘Appointment with Inner-self’, “Even if you are a lifetime late, I’ll meet you there.” Philosophical and romantic. Mr. Molotkov will be starting a new reading series in February called ‘The Voice of Empathy’. The series “showcases writers whose work investigates the human capacity for compassion and generosity and invites the reader/listener to care deeply for others and the world.”
Wrapping up our night of muse and magic was Justin Allen. Our events are laden with humor and fun and part of the fun is Mr. Allen’s writing process. A gifted social justice poet, he thrives on the pressure of a writing challenge. Before the reading, I give him a topic, usually whatever pops into my head at the time. By the end of the reading, Mr. Allen has produced a dynamic poem and that night we got two! The topic I gave him was “women” and he produced one romantic poem and another about women’s rights. His intense reading of the two poems was briefly separated by a segment in Chinese. I couldn’t tell you what he said but it sounded pretty impressive. Mr. Allen is all about the surprise and what great surprises they are!
Please join us on January 29th at 7pm. We will be paying tribute to two great poets, William Stafford and Mary Oliver. For William Stafford, we will be reading selections from ‘Ask Me’.
The Last Tuesdays poetry group is co-hosted by David Hill, Cathie Padgett and myself at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Vancouver, WA. All are welcome to attend this community event and, if they wish, read a family-friendly poem or two during our open mic sessions. If you are an avid open mic reader, Tiger Talk hosted by Joyce Colson gathers on the third Wednesday of each month at the Paper Tiger coffeehouse and Ghost Town Poetry hosted by Christopher Luna has an open mic on the 2nd Thursday of each month.