Dictators and Tater Tots

Last night at Molly Malone’s, my favorite Chicagoland reading/open mic hosted by Nina Corwin and Al DeGenova, I once again was rewarded with an evening of good words, good people, and good bar food. I joined my parents for dinner (our monthly ritual) before the reading and found myself a seat between my pals Kurt Heinz and Charlie Newman, charming guys and great poets, both. (It was also a good way to stay warm in the freezing cold, many-windowed “snug” room where the only warm place is the mic since there is a space heater behind it…) Plus, Charlie always gets tater tots at some point in the middle of the reading…and he shares.

The open mic was strong, as usual, with many readers new to Molly’s, a place that keeps attracting people in addition to keeping the old crew (of which I am officially now a part). Lots of sonnets for some reason – maybe because it’s close to Valentine’s Day? – and a Kurt poem with excellent rhythms and references to engines and a Charlie poem with the wonderful line “a woman drives a car across my heart with her eyes.”

But the highlight was the feature reading by Valerie Wallace, poet, feminist, Rhino editor, volunteer with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, and all-around lovely human being. She read some newer poems and also read from her chapbook The Dictator’s Guide to Good Housekeeping (dancing girl press). (You can read the devastating title poem here.) Valerie is a poet I admire a great deal, not only for her poems, but also for her generosity of time and spirit. She was of great help to me when creating my artist’s statement for my residency application, and she is a relentless scholar and lover of her craft.

Last night, in the dark, a ray of sunlight still shone in the words – I was encouraged to keep working on my February poem a day despite the gray and gloom of this month that Clive Barker once called “the great, grey beast.”

 I caught up tonight (two short poems, and not very good, but done), and I hope to be able to keep the streak alive.


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