Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rousing the Gorgeous

If there's one way to pre-game for National Poetry Month, it's with chicken skin.

Follow me here: chicken skin is an indulgent, all-too-infrequent pleasure. Much the way poetry is.

So scoring them both in the same afternoon makes for a rare indulgence.

And while I was anticipating the poetry, the chicken skin was an unexpected delight.

At this morning's pancake breakfast, my favorite cellist had asked if I'd been to Don't Look Back yet (I think he wanted a recommendation).

I hadn't, but with plans to go to a reading in Carytown this afternoon, it immediately became part of my plan.

Does that make me easy to influence?

Nate's Frito pie is, in my considered opinion, a distinct guilty pleasure, so I wanted to see what he was cooking up since relocating from Jackson Ward to Carytown.

The transition was easier than I expected; behind the bar was a friendly face from Comfort, mere blocks from my house.

You can take the people out of J-Ward, but happily you can't take the J-Ward out of the people.

Just for the record, I did look at the menu, but once I saw the chalkboard specials, my decision was made.

I ordered  one chicken skin taco and one carne adovada taco, opting for the traditional preparation (cilantro, onion, and lime) on double-wrapped corn tortillas for both.

One bite of the chicken skin taco and I was telling a stranger that he had to order one, too.

It was his first time at DLB, so I figured I was helping. And he believed me and ordered one.

Following that crispy goodness, I dug into my long-marinated pork in a sweet adovada sauce and savored its completely different but equally as satisfying flavors.

When my protege's chicken skin taco arrived, he took a bite and gave me a slight bow of the head.

"God, you were right," he rhapsodized, closing his eyes briefly.

It's hard to be wrong about chicken skin.

A neighbor once invited me to lunch and cooked chicken skin in hopes of convincing me to date him (it didn't work but the skin was magnificent, crispy and salty).

With my belly full, I moseyed down to Plan 9 for Record Store Day.

The Garbers were setting up to play, I saw friends everywhere but made a beeline for the "Yard Sale LPs- $1-$2."

Flipping through the selection, they were all very much of an era and genre.

Maybe even the same yard sale.

Lou Rawls, Kool & the Gang, Teena Marie, Quincy Jones, Prince, The Time, Natalie Cole, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Weather Report, Santana.

Ah, yes, that period.

After food and music, it was time for poetry to soothe my savage beast. More accurately, I wanted to be read to.

As our hostess mentioned, Chop Suey's upstairs gallery provides a similar atmosphere to a living room tour, intimate and welcoming.

Every seat was taken and people stood in the doorway to hear Angela Vogel and Catherine MacDonald read from their award-winning first books.

Vogel's strength was her mastery of language; her ability at wordplay (puns, juxtapositions and innuendo) was mesmerizing.

It extended to the title of her book, "Fort Gorgeous."

"Wendy Grown" she described as using the voice of an adult Wendy Darling (from Peter Pan) to bitch about men.

Her humor came through in "Medicine Chest" about a guy who left his dogs with her family only to go off and rob a bank.

On the plus side, he did loan her family $1,000 of his loot.

As a wedding gift, she'd written "Poem for Your Wedding" with the line, "We pad into wedlock, unsure of the combination."

Afterwards, she observed, "Come to think of it, that's not a very good poem to give to people getting married."

In "The Claw" she begins, "Swinger, come hither. You'll shut my claptrap. You'll pound my sand" and ends with, "Love, I've got the teeth for it."

Teeth help a lot.

Truly poetry for the language nerd contingent, of which I proudly consider myself a card-carrying member.

And you know you're among other poetry geeks by the head-nodding that follows each poem.

The only thing that would have been better is if the crowd had snapped their fingers in appreciation of what we were hearing.

She was followed by Catherine MacDonald, whose "Rousing the Machinery" dealt with the poet's interior life.

She said she intended to read from her book and then do some new poems.

"Like most poets, I'm completely enamored of my new poems because no one's yet told me that they suck."

In "Unreliable Narrator," I found our common ground when she read, "I am someone who remembers what you forgot to say."

I am that person, too.

The poem after which her book is named began with a line from William Blake and a few Blake jokes that got the kind of laughs that only a poetry-loving audience could deliver.

Her imagery was evocative, as in "Lida at Work in the World," where she wrote, "Its mate in wild orbit nearby."

Several poems dealt with the imaginary travel that she does, like "Untidy Geographies" about her sister's years living in China.

"Russian Studies" was about her Russian History teacher, explaining, "At ten paces, you can't hear our words."

MacDonald finished with three new works referencing her middle class domestic life and the early non-fiction design writings of socialite/novelist Edith Wharton.

Sigh. Poets reading by an open window on a spring afternoon.

Linguistic acrobatics, Wharton and Blake on the same day as chicken skin.

Cue head nodding and finger snapping.

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