by David Puerner
The very first reading of the semester, presented by the Butte College Reading Series, went off without a hitch last Wednesday. Offering a medley of beautiful poetry followed by a powerful reflective essay, this first reading was quite the globe-trotter.
Joanne Allred had the first at-bat. Weaving together thoughtful images with heartfelt thoughts and sentiments about the world, the human heart, and Butte County Ms. Allred was able to transport this Haberdasher out of the student lounge (located at the Butte College Chico Center) and take me along with her to treasured vistas.
Particularly moving was her poem entitled (I think) Giving a Shit. Short and sweet this poem took us along with her and her daughter as they cleaned trash (that was not theirs) in the aftermath of a creek-side rendezvous. At the end of the poem, Ms. Allred says to her daughter, “thank you for taking the time to clean with me,” and her daughter replies, “thanks for raising me to give a shit.”
Wednesday’s readings were delivered by three very talented women. Apparently the readers knew who they would be reading with in advance. The night quickly became a celebration of Woman as the night’s second reader took the floor.
Wielding a powerful message of thanks and admiration, Jeanne Clark’s poetry was hand–picked from her collection to paint a portrait of personal thanks. Ms. Clark’s poetry celebrated both physical and emotional aspects of womanhood. Doll House and The Serving of a Good Aunt were among my favorites.
Her style, or at least the way she arranged this particular reading, reminded me strongly of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’ I Am Joaquín. Both Clark’s reading and the message of I Am Joaquín seemed to be an attempt at defining a group of people, not by distinguishing characteristics, but through a kaleidoscopic portrayal of both scope and impact.
This is only one example of the power of poetry.
As exciting as the night had been, the bases were only loaded at the conclusion of the second reading. Somebody needed to bring them all home. Without a doubt, that somebody was Sarah Pape*.
Ms. Pape prefaced her story by revealing that she had only recently switched gears from poetry to prose. I was not sure that one had to choose, but the essay that followed could only have been done justice in the form that it was delivered. Dreams of Water is a reflective essay filled to bursting with all the beauty and eloquence that can only be delivered by prose. “Floods punctuate our town’s history” She writes in an attempt to characterize and understand the city of Oroville; her home town, and the place she would raise her daughter.
I find myself in awe. I often do after listening to somebody present the polished cultivation of their mind’s passion, but this time I was particularly moved. I cannot say whether it’s because this was the first reading after a long summer of polished blockbuster excursions, or whether the coalescing and intertwining narratives truly performed some type of bitter-sweet alchemy which affects me still. I can only say that I’m glad I went, and that I hope to see you there next time.