Poetry for the Environment, Review

[NOTE: Brian and I agreed to review one another's readings. I see he decided to review himself, instead. I, however, am sticking to the agreement.]

It was a beautifully Floridian winter's day in Davie, Florida when Brian Spears joined three other poets (John Childrey, David Plumb, and some woman) reciting their work to a packed room of undergraduates and retirees at the top floor of Broward Community College's still-quite-fresh campus library.

Some might say the stage was set for thoughts on global warming, as it was 78 degrees and sunny on this January day, the students laughing and playing in tanks and camisoles in the shade of trees before the library's main entrance. But this was actually traditional weather for the season: low humidity, and a cool breeze.

The event was staged by Angela Fernandez, a Women's Studies student and Davie Writing Center employee, as her contribution to an environmental extravaganza. A dark-haired lady with a sympathetic aversion to public speaking, she spent most of the event moving around the room with an donation plate filled with small green ribbons and pins to be worn in support of environmental awareness. These were mostly gratefully received, although one conspicuous audience member loudly announced "I don't do ribbons," and sent her on her way.

The room was large, a corner top-floor room surrounded by windows which could mechanically shade themselves, in part or in whole. The warm-up act of the event, was, at some level, the amusement we all took in watching these shades be adjusted to the perfect "poetry reading" light-level, neither too dark nor too bright. (One wonders what amount of fossil fuels was involved in such an engineering delight, but no matter -- one can barely get to the Davie Campus without a car.)

The reading began with John Childrey, whose poems give a close view of the physical environments of South Florida -- he accompanied his reading with the photographs of his wife, Candice Childrey, an accomplished photographer whose mode is similar: intimate views of the natural world that surrounds us, from a car. Or, in the case of one of her photographs, a gorgeous egret taking flight, his wings curled seductively inward as he powers himself forward, barely missed by a passing car. John Childrey's poems gave one this sense.

Then some chick read. [Maybe someone can edit in a review of this part? I can't remember a damn thing about this woman.]Edit: I am thoroughly ashamed of my lack in this matter, and will fix it right now. Amy was, and I am not exaggerating here, resplendent in her reading. She was engaging and funny, and she managed that most difficult of poetic reading tasks--keeping an audience's attention all the way through a 2-3 page poem, titled "The Ones I Love and Texas." She spoke Florida more truly than any of the rest of us, in part because she is Florida, in all its overheated, overcrowded, elbowing-at-its-boundaries glory. And I teared up when she read the poem she wrote for my daughter after Hurricane Katrina. That poem, which may be the most awesome ever written, is available here, thanks to the brilliant editors at storySouth.

David Plumb's focus was, to tell the truth, not primarily on the environment, but the audience didn't seem to mind: his poetry focused on the Iraq War, and was ranting, vivid, pulling what felt like global details into a crazed local gazpacho -- a soup of newspaper clippings, if you will. His one read "found poem" sticks in the mind: "I dreamed my grand-daughter was covered with oil, but I couldn't find anything to wipe it off her." (Quoted as the mind remembers, not necessarily verbatim.)

Finally Brian Spears was asked to close the show. After the customary ingratiations, he delivered a rousing call to arms about free speech, encouraging the audience to defy "free speech zone" restrictions should they happen to disagree with them, no matter their political points of view. He then talked a bit about how this reading encouraged him to write after a long dry spell. He then got to reading. His poems were flawless, in this reviewer's opinion the best of the lot, vivid and sensitive, beautifully paced, although sometimes lacking in articles (one must chalk this up to "poetic license"). He closed on a villanelle, which was very warmly received by the audience (as Angela Fernandez closed, she especially thanked Brian for including her favorite form, the villanelle), and many audience members made a point of expressing their appreciation to the poets, especially Brian for his villanelle. (One must conclude that villanelles are prompted for a huge comeback.)

And so ended the Broward Community College Poetry for the Environment reading, January 24, 2008.

Random 10:

1. Sloop John B -- The Beach Boys
2. You Know I'm No Good -- Amy Winehouse
3. Tripping Billies -- Dave Matthews
4. River is Waiting -- John Fogerty
5. Jolene -- The White Stripes
6. Ocean Waves -- Virtual Audio Environments [this is a 45 minute long recording of the ocean]
7. Here We Go -- Ozomatli
8. Kingdom of Lies -- Folk Implosion
9. El Aguafiesta -- The Spam Allstars
10. Numb -- Portishead

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