The monthly series has migrated around town a bit and has alit at Bela Dubby – a coffee shop/tavern/art gallery at 13321 Madison Avenue in beautiful Lakewood Ohio. Fliers say the show starts @ 7pm and the two effervescent hosts John Burroughs (aka Jesus Crisis) and Diane Borsenik got the thing rolling in front of a packed house of fifty or so just about on time. I say just about because the evening began with twenty five minutes of announcements. I wouldn’t recommend coming late to miss these preliminaries though if you hope to get a seat. I got lucky and found a single seat up front between Kathy Smith and some cat wearing a shirt with the mathematical symbol for pi on it.
One of the things I enjoy about this series is on the couple occasions I have been able to attend they have mixed some music in with the readers. This evening Leah Lou, a precociously adorable singer songwriter opened the evening. Her voice comes across in a familiarly quirky and neo folk kinda way. Not being up on the names of all the contemporary practitioners of this genre I am at a loss to make an accurate comparison and will date myself by saying she reminds me of Melanie Safka. Her lyrics showed a healthy dose of self deprecating humor as did her easy stage presence. Definitely one of those folks that causes one to turn to their neighbor and say, “she’s just as good as…”
After the young lady finished her set Russell Vidrick took the mic. I’ve been seeing this guy around town for the last twenty years or so and the only thing that has changed about his hangdog look and deadpan delivery is possibly the addition of two or three gray hairs. This Cleveland poetic staple also hosts a second Saturday series at the Brandt Gallery in Tremont. Vidrick‘s set produced a déjà vu experience. I turned to Kathy and asked, “Maybe it’s just me – but is this the only poem this guy ever does?” Kathy said that he was stringing together several pieces but I felt sure I had heard all of the pieces he was doing the first time I saw him read a couple decades ago.
Even though I felt I was able to anticipate all of Vidrick’s punch lines, his reading was enjoyable and short enough to leave you wanting to hear more (a talent any poetry presenter would do well to cultivate.) If indeed Russ was stringing together several pieces I would have liked to know when one ended and the next began.
Leah Lou came out – did another quick four or five piece set and then disappeared into the night because her boyfriend had to go to work.
Okay here’s the topless part.
This evening the crowd celebrated Burroughs’s birthday. Unbeknownst to Jesus Crisis, his partner in rhyme had solicited lines from the far flung poetry community who have interacted with her co-host and assembled them into an epic approaching bit of verse. Dianne presented the poem, framed for display, to our surprised man of the hour and then read the two hundred plus line piece. A representative from the Ohio Poetry Association also gave our guy a t shirt proclaiming the wearer as an Ohio Poet. Egged on by the crowd John did a quick hootchie cootchie and donned the top.
The final feature spot of the evening was filled by California bartender/poet David Smith nom de plume Handsome Duke Deal. I knew I would have to hit the road right after his set so I moved over to the bar area bequeathing my front row seat to Terry Provost. Smith took the mic and informed the crowd that he had passed up a trip to France to come to Cleveland. The woman at the bar next to me and I instantaneously exchanged dubious looks. It is not beyond the pale to question the sanity of such a decision. Smith’s reading offered no confirmation of mental liabilities though.
This “outlaw poet’s” work came across as a well crafted mixture of wit and observation. He even threw in a piece about transvestites in Cleveland as well as one ruminating over a visit to Lakeview Cemetery. He read mostly from his new collection White Time published by Off Beat Pulp of Kansas. Here is an excerpt of his piece
GENOCIDE SUTRA - A LOVE POEM from the collection:
With ruby hearts at stress,
we march hand wrapped in hand
through the infamous gates
across the broken tracks
and into the empty yard;
where evil screamed,
and the devil harvested
the vineyard of the damned.
there is no pleasure in yesterday.
this little terror at the ass-end of the world. Truly.
The memorial here is an antiseptic lie.
An anemic and sterile victims' dude ranch.
Diluted. A soft and incomplete fable.
we stroll through this detached amusement park,
Poland's tidy and grand tourist attraction.
when you sleep with Dr. Mengele
you always sleep alone.
After Smith’s reading I unfortunately had to hit the road and missed the open mic. Lix and Kix the next installment is October 20 featuring broadside poet extraordinaire Ralph Lacharity. I recommend getting there early.