Sometimes, switches in schedules just work out. The other night, while visiting my mother in Southern California, I was planning to attend an open-mic reading in San Diego. One of the readers, Maggi DeRosa, is a fine young spoken-word artist we have just signed at Aisling Press (www.aislingpress.com) for her first collection, “The Fool Is King.” Remember that name and title: the book will be published in early March, in time for National Poetry Month. Also, in time for Maggi and I to tour Southern California for a series of dual readings from our new books (my next collection, “The River-Fed Stone,” will also be out in March). We start March 15 with the Sunset Poets in Oceanside, headline the E-Street Café March 16 in Encinitas (www.estreetcafe.com), read in North Park on March 18 … and I’ll post the rest of the schedule when it’s finalized.
I digress. Maggi reads once or twice a week in the North Park and Ocean Beach sections of San Diego, and exemplifies one of the great grassroots re-emergences taking place in literature today – the new popularity of poetry among the under-30 crowd. We haven’t seen such interest in spoken word and songwriting in this country since the sixties … and it’s time for all of us to get out and listen. I’m here to tell you, these young poets are not only good, but their material carries wisdom, depth and movement we all need to appreciate and listen closely to.
Only, due to family matters and the necessity to be close-by, I couldn’t drive the hour to hear Maggi read. But since I was desperate to hear new poetry, somewhere, I learned about an anthology reading and signing in my hometown, Carlsbad — the 19th annual Magee Park Poets Anthology, to be exact. I cruised down to the newest library … and walked right into a vital part of my past.
The emcee, and the ringleader of the Magee Park Poets Anthology is Pat Hansen, who I last saw in 1975 when I barely in high school. She was a librarian at Carlsbad Library, and I was a page — a book-shelver. After a nice open-mic from the poets featured in the collection, which opened with a stirring poetic tribute to a recently deceased 15-year-old poet from her 10-year-old sister, Meagan Harris, we shared stories from the library. Pat was thrilled to learn that I’d become a writer, editor, publisher and poet. I was over the moon that she took a love of poetry that I remember well (she once told my young rock-and-roll teenage self why poetry matters to society, including the poetry of rock lyrics, and I apparently listened), and turned it into a vital literary and spoken word community in Carlsbad. Interestingly, my immediate supervisor at the library, Bobbie Hoder, is largely responsible for Carlsbad’s cultural arts development in the past twenty years. It reminded me of how well mentored I was at all steps of my walk as a writer and editor. (If you’re ever in Carlsbad, go to one of the three libraries and grab information – you’ll be culturally nourished.)
As I spoke with Pat, and she thumbed through my collections “Coyotes in Broad Daylight” and “Shades of Green,” which I presented her, two other very sweet memories came to me … the crush I had on a young librarian (though almost 10 years older than me), whose enduring patience with me and her bohemian ways will never be forgotten, and my first kiss, when I was 13. It was with Pat’s daughter, Robin. Those moments were not shared, but just goes to show how chance run-ins trigger memories.
I hadn’t seen Pat in 32 years. But my disappointment in not hearing Maggi read turned into the elation of seeing an old friend do what she loves to do — create a wonderful platform for poetry over three decades and build it for countless poets who have read and sold collections in Carlsbad. Without people like Pat Hansen, we have nowhere to read or sign, and no local contacts to promote our work or create anthologies to showcase new and published local poets.
Thankfully, the featured poets realized that, and thanked Pat and editor Shadab Zeest Hashmi effusively.