Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another successful night in the salmon-walled backroom at The Bookworm for International Poetry Open Mic and, by all accounts, right up there with the best of them. At 8:15, there were only a handful of people mulling about restlessly, and not so many of the usuals, but by 8:30, when I began to read the lyrics of Circus from the album Real Gone by Tom Waits, the room was crowded. Standing room only. I tried to drawl it out a little like he does in the song in a kind of half-sedated plod with only the café murmur to accompany me. I usually begin each night by reading something by another writer and then we get it really rolling with everyone who'd signed up to share something. This was the first time I'd read song lyrics.

Jorge gave me his name card at the end of the reading. The Chinglish name for a business card. I had given him mine the week before. I glanced at his, looking awkwardly at the Chinese gibberish. He motioned to flip over the card, which I did, and I recognized the familiar characters of English. I read his name and then a line below to read his job title, knowing he was a student, and sure enough, that's what was printed under his name. Student. Beijing Chinese Language Academy. I thought it was funny, but didn't reveal my thoughts in any way. He was telling me that he really admired my poetry and wanted to invite Angela and me over for dinner sometime. I told him that I had had similar intentions.

We'd met three weeks ago when he had come to read some of his poetry for the first time, and became an instant favorite with the crowd. Young-looking, energetic, curly-haired Panamanian dude with thin-rimmed glasses wearing a brown sweater with large white spirals around the edges, baggy grey pants, knobby black shoes and a black kango. He attacked his poems as he read them, as if he were accusing the pages and not the actual subjects of his poems. He let the pages fall to the floor as he finished reading them. He was fighting for them.

Last night, he read a three or four poems: one-and-a-half page jobbers stapled together. He reads in a rapid-fire rhythmical barrage style which keeps everyone listening. A bit too fast for my taste, I'd like to savor the language a little more, but not at the expense of the energy which blows some nice life into the poetry and into our little event. One of his poems was accompanied by the music of John Coltrane. He returned at the end of the night to beatbox behind Efe's freestyle rap, which also featured the spontaneously dancing Frenchman, Alain, who jumped out of his seat out of nowhere to shake it.

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