With composition book and Bic pen in tow, I headed to Annie Bloom’s Books, snuggled next to an Irish pub in Multnomah Village; a hamlet of shops I’d been through many times before on my way to the Starbucks, without ever having stopped inside the staple of the village.
The atmosphere was conducive to a poetry-reading on that cool and crisp October eve. And the shop’s resident mouser, a pink-tongued, black American Bombay named Molly, made the ambiance seem more like I just ended up in neighbor's cozy living room.
Despite the seemingly endless rows of books, the poets themselves were the promising attraction for the evening. Carolyn Martin, Kathleen Halme, and Sage Cohen would call the small and well-established bookstore their stage for the night. Only, I had no idea what they looked like. They didn’t exactly stand out from the crowd. The ‘meet-n-greet’ of many people beforehand left me wondering from the beginning: just who were the poets in the room? After half a glass of served pinot, I’d allowed myself to imagine flighty-looking hippies, wearing turquoise and silver jewelry, and sporting graceful age-lines. But soon, one of the store’s staff-members stood at a lectern, and announced the first of the three poets.
Carolyn Martin, former nun, turned savvy business growth-management speaker, turned poet, presented the audience with material she was working forward on. Exodus of Two Testaments, It’s Good To Be Slow, Lines Composed, and Collusion. (Her reading of Collusion had me so enthralled, that, unfortunately, I failed to scrawl down my usual notes of quotable lines, as is my practice.)
Kathleen Halme, a native of Wakefield, Michigan, with a fascination in anthropology and biology, graced us with melodic writings in-between praises coming from her husband in the audience; The Bungalow Museum, Incarnation Café, Evulsion, (my slim memory of this poem suggested an injury once suffered) Drift and Pulse, from the book of the same name, and Equipoise. This last, Ms. Halme explained, was inspired by her enchantment with light-houses.
Charming the audience with a lively tale of her son, Theo, Sage Cohen revealed she had only just begun a new poem based on a youthful statement made by her ‘primary muse,' as twilight fell one late summer’s eve. Cohen couldn’t resist the tickle to the corner of her mouth when she recounted his words. “Theo asked me to please, ‘Turn the daylight back on’.”
A native of New Jersey, Cohen ventured west to live in San Francisco, returned to semi-eastern roots, before making her home in Portland, Oregon to relish in ‘greater spaciousness, a worm compost bin, and the freedom to cut a cat door into the side of the house, with no one to tell me it’s not allowed’.
Like Martin and Halme, Cohen read from a short list of new works; Dear Redbud, A Dictionary of the Cathedral, Dear Scar, (a seeming ode to the C-section she withstood during her son’s birth) Still Life With Cough Drops, and Dear Fritz Guest House. (So, this student couldn’t ‘cheat’ and follow along in her school textbook)
Question and answer sessions were held after each author prepared to close their moment in the spotlight, so as to shine it upon the audience-poets; I’d given a slight glance over my shoulder now and then to find I wasn’t the only one with ink-markings on my digits.
An ‘open-mic’ evening of sorts commenced, welcoming a small handful. And I realized my earlier question had been answered: everyone in the room was a poet. A short, pleasantly-plump woman named Liz read two poems, named Haiku, and Japanese Garden in the Rain. Shawna, one of the ‘meet-n-greet’ people I’d met briefly, read her piece, Mandated Grievings. Another, calling himself F.I. Gold, had recited his works, State Park, and Age Old Dilemma, which I’d marked down in my notebook as being awesome, though I don’t remember why. (Sigh. So many notes to take, not taken)
During the readings, I heard a light chuckle behind me, as Molly was witnessed playing with the runner-fringe hanging from the lectern. It was her home, after all, and we were the guests she tolerated, so long as she was offered a lap when she so desired.
In-between these imaginative writers, I braved the waters with a single poem, inspired by Tim O’Brien’s short story collection, The Things They Carried. The short applause each poet (known or unknown) received was met with thankfulness and encouragement.
Before retreating into the chilly evening, I stopped to thank each of the guests, with special attention to Ms. Cohen, who was honored to know that her work, Writing The Life Poetic, was a classroom textbook for the art she loved. And she warmly accepted my request of a book-signature:
‘Such a pleasure to spend an evening of poetry with you. May this book be good company for your adventure.’ ~ Sage Cohen
Guess I can forget about a ‘book buy-back’ at my school’s campus bookstore.
"Books. Cats. Life is good." ~ Edward Gorey