Thursday, July 9, 2015

Jam Up and Jelly Tight

With a last quarter moon in the sky and Jupiter aligning with Venus, I doubt my evening could've been much groovier.

Cue finger snapping.

Given my penchant for poetry, where better to begin than a reading at Chop Suey Books featuring the varied poetic stylings of Cecily Iddings, Simeon Berry, and Sandra Beasley?

A small but devoted cadre of verse lovers filled the chairs and aisles as Simeon took his place facing us to warn of the weirdness of his poems ("They own a lint collective," hello?). He was an excellent reader, easy to understand, never stumbling over words as he read from "Ampersand Revisited" and "Monograpgh."

Favorite line: How fresh to make scholarship sexy

Cecily chose to read only one poem from her book "Everyone Here," but it was a long one (with some wonderfully phrased lines such as, "Strangers in pajamas, new from dreaming") and she tended to laugh at particularly sexual lines that didn't come across as funny, except to her. It was just a bit unsettling.

Favorite line: She's owed a life she can't collect

After thanking Chop Suey owner Ward for letting her "crash the party," Sandra read from her book "Count the Waves," which she characterized as a book of love poems. Not traditional love poems, but more "can you love me this way?" type of love poems. Her reading style resembled acting, loud and projecting to the back row.

From the poem #6459, a numerical designation for the phrase "the country is quite mountainous" came the line, "The goats gambol and bray on the cliffs." After she finished, she insisted, "I swear that's a love poem." We didn't ask her to defend that statement, but probably should have.

Favorite line tie: You must not look for poetry in poems and Fit a melody in the crook of your arm and strum.

Yet again, Chop Suey delivered another stellar hour for those of us who revel in hearing poetry read aloud to us.

The only way to top that was to head to the Earth Folk Collective in Manchester for the first ever Blackberry Jam, exactly the play on words it seems.

The couple who own the property had invited friends to come help pick blackberries, make jam over an open fire, enjoy a potluck and wile away the evening listening to three musical acts. I packed my chair, a bottle of wine and set out for southside.

Walking from the street up the path to the party, I passed a hand-painted sign saying "Compost," multiple garden beds encircled by large burlap coffee bags and a dozen or so people engaged in yoga off to the side of the path. One woman had a child mounted on her upright legs while another was giving a neck massage.

Further on, a small group held lit sparklers aloft, a post-holiday nod.

By this time, berries had been picked, jam had been made and Florida's Mark Etherington, also known as Mountain Hollar, was starting his psychedelic folk set on a fairy light-lit stage carved out of the freestanding garage. Behind him were flowered curtains and framing the open door were lights of green and white. Next to it, lights decorated a pergola where people sat talking or swinging in a hanging basket chair. The charming pale blue camper where my friends currently reside had its own string of pale blue lights.

All in all, everything had a magical feel to it.

The music paused. "Hot weather and guitars do not go well together," Mark said between songs, tuning. "It's out of tune again." No one minded waiting.

My favorite Jackson Ward neighbors spotted me and the handsome bearded one whispered, "Is this the new Listening Room?" referring to the long-time series we'd all attended. Wouldn't that be something if it were?

After Mark's marvelously trippy set, our host gave me a tour of the improvements they've made to the circa 1800s house they are working on while living in the trailer.

He showed me where they're stripping off the cheesy faux brick facade to reveal clapboard protected for over half a century by the tacky covering. The bathroom had gotten a floor-lift, green skylights and exposed ceiling rafters. They'd made a guest room for visitors and touring musicians.

Back outside, I watched toddlers take advantage of a baby pool to cool down, greeted a few friends and suddenly realized I couldn't very well go to a blackberry jam and not have, duh, blackberry jam.

I went in search of it just in time because the pot on the cooling embers had barely an inch of jam left, but I managed to score some along with my neighbors (I'd told the Beard I'd have to call him out if he left without tasting jam, so he did). It was tart with the satisfying crunch of blackberry seeds, but I found I liked it best in this heat when underneath a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream eaten out of one of grandma's coffee cups.

The J-Ward contingent discussed how very '70s-like the whole evening felt with people of all ages, kids running around, clusters of people scattered throughout the property and a committed DIY ethos. There was a dish-washing station on the porch, gray water collection inside for plant watering and recycle containers for beer cans and wine bottles.

Mentioning it to our much younger hostess, she enthused about how much she's learned from reading the '70s literature by the people who'd first resolved to live in harmony with the earth. "It's a way for sub-cultures now to benefit from everything they learned then," she said, no doubt referring to the stuff my friends and I recalled. See what I mean about the groovy factor?

The only jarring note to the peace and love vibe was the glare of cell phones by those unable to just enjoy the moment.

Before the next band began, she took the stage to share that she opposed the natural gas pipeline being espoused and letting folks know she had "No Pipeline" signs available for people to take home to share their voice on the subject.

"Sorry, you're at my house, so you have to listen to my soapbox," she said with a gorgeous smile. No one seemed to mind or differ in opinion.

Duo Haints in the Holler, playing drum and guitar, started playing and people began settling down again to listen to their earnest take on Americana. After a couple of songs played at center stage, they moved forward to the edge of the stage, making for far better sound for the audience and an interesting silhouette effect with the twinkling lights just behind them now.

As their voices melded in songs such as "Many Nights," I sat back in my chair enjoying the occasional breeze rustling through the tree tops and lifting my hair off my neck, just the way a summer evening should. Every now and then, a plane would fly overhead, lost behind the cloud cover of the thunderstorms that never happened, more of a fuzzy moving nimbus than a defined shape.

Twice they tried to end their set and twice the relaxed crowd called for just one more and they obliged. No one seemed in a hurry for the night to end.

Finally, our host thanked us all for coming, saying how happy it made him to share this kind of evening with friends. "We hope this is just the first of many Blackberry Jams to come!" he said from the stage.

Far out. It's poetry and Blackberry Jams that make up golden living dreams of visions.

And it's friends like the Earth Folk Collective - not the lint collective - who make it seem possible that peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.

There's pure poetry in that kind of optimism.

No comments:

Post a Comment