On Sunday, June 1st, east bay poets Richard Loranger and Clive Matson hosted the one year anniversary of their reading series, Poetry Unbound. Along with a memorable open mic portion, the event featured the world beat jazz ensemble COPUS performing with poet Charles Curtis Blackwell, and Kayla Sussell, a retired copy editor and lively octogenarian poet of jazz who only began writing poetry five years ago, at the numerologically intriguing age of 77.
This exceptional series has the true Berzerkeley stamp on it.
First, it takes place at the Berkeley Art House, the love child of photographer Harold Adler, a long time Berkeley resident whose vivid photographs of Berkeley in the ’60s have been widely published and now decorate the Art House walls. Adler is a photographer of consummate skill, and his documentary photos (which are not limited to Berkeley) make the Art House a virtual museum of a passionately observant life. Decorated with Adler’s photos, ’60s band posters and other psychedelia, and accompanied by late 60’s and early 70’s era rock playing through the loudspeakers, the Art House can feel like a remarkably vibrant time warp. Not surprisingly, then, Poetry Unbound often features poets who have been part of the Berkeley scene for a long time, as well as younger folk who feel an affinity for this history.
At the recent anniversary celebration, many of the poets reading and those in attendance were clearly well into their seventh decade and beyond. Their passion, presence, enthusiasm, and just plain grooviness carries the Berzerkeley tradition into the 21st century. Along with the usual political poetry and sexually explicit poems of joy, the open mic portion of the evening included an interpretative dance solo by a soulful hippie lady of indeterminate age accompanied by a long haired, grey-bearded classical pianist. Following her solo, the pianist remained onstage to play a beautifully nuanced rendition of a Chopin waltz that could not help but evoke Elliott’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with its reference to Chopin (“so intimate, this Chopin”). The folks at Poetry Unbound, however, are emphatically not afraid to eat peaches. I doubt they’ve ever met a peach they didn’t happily dare to devour.
Videos coming soon! In the meanwhile, you can read Litseen’s description of one of Poetry Unbound’s debut editions here. The series recurs on the first Sunday of every month.
Charles Kruger is co-founder and -curator of the monthly Bay Area Generations: A Reading Series for the Ages, which features intergenerational literary couplings. He has previously served on the Board of Directors for Quiet Lightning, and his poetry and prose has been published in sparkle + blink, Red Fez, onthebus, The Rumpus and others. He is also the proud perpetrator of TheatreStorm, a website reviewing the Bay area theatre scene, and a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Charles often spits literature in public venues and he paints sometimes, too.