CONDENSERY: oakland is better than you

(Evan Karp)

I lived in Fruitvale for 11 of last year’s months and worked in Berkeley for most of that time, and had a pretty hard time finding lit things to attend. Mostly that’s because I was already so entrenched in what was going on here that I kept crossing the bridge, and when I did wander the East Bay it was mostly for a rare escape from The City. Isn’t that strange?

Yes. It’s totally bizarre. I got it from you and you and you. The East Bay is a hotbed! You know about the murmurs. But you never cross the Bay! And when you do, you never, ever sleep over.

Tonight, we’re covering Ekphrastic! and the Dean Young Benefit—in Oakland and Berkeley. Last week I went to Condensery for the first time and let me tell you:

That scene is really great. I didn’t mingle or meet many people, really, because I was being all shy and apprehensive (I hardly knew anyone there and wasn’t feeling very social you know, it happens), but the monthly readings are in this big house they call the speakeasy and I got there a half hour early because my friend was in town and borrowed my keys and I forgot to get them back from him so I didn’t have my bike lock and I sat on the big porch and finished Josh Mohr‘s first novel (having just finished the 2nd and 3rd, which you can’t see yet but should want to) and there was a band practice of some sort going on inside and they were really good! I didn’t even get to find out who it was, if someone is reading this and knows you should comment or post on the facewall so we can all hear them.

Usually Condensery features two readers, but this month the superstars aligned and they had three: Sara Wintz, Brian Teare, and Kevin Killian. In this case, each of the first two readers had 20 minutes or so. I thought Sara’s reading was tops and thoroughly enjoyed Brian’s, even though the poems he read seem to be very page-oriented, or as he said, “structural, or visual, so how you might read it is up to you.” Check both of these out when you have the time:

Sara Wintz

Brian Teare

Then there was a 20 minute break or something, during which time people swarmed outside to smoke. Wine and light snacks were provided, too, and the authors all had books and were chatting everyone up. You know how it goes. But do you?

I got this great sense at the speakeasy, and maybe it was because I had just a few days before been sitting outside at zeitgeist when someone said “the lending library could be so great, because then we could sit around the shelves and read poems to each other whenever we wanted, we could just go there, and since we don’t go to each other’s apartments anymore — least I don’t, I don’t know who does — it would be perfect.” Actually the man who said that has the condensery poem on his leg and I asked him to send me a picture to append to this post, but he doesn’t use the computer that much and also he’s probably writing a poem, which is better than taking a picture of your own tattoo, for sure, but he said this and I walked up to that house all early and then through the kitchen where people were putting together some chapbooks, much like this, and went outside, where there was a big garden and it actually felt like summer because it wasn’t windy and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying I miss my bicycle that was stolen last year because I don’t make any massive trips through the North Bay with my new one and if you only stay in San Francisco I’m sorry to say that you’re missing as much as you’re getting. I’m also saying that we live in apartments here, and they live in houses, and I’m not jealous I’m just saying house parties are always the best. Yes, for readings too.

So you’re missing out on that too, and maybe more—depending on your disposition. I like coffee too much for it to be all warm and stuff all the time. You guys remember when Litseen was all bloglike? This post is dedicated to that era. But you aren’t here for nostalgia. It’s all happening right now! You are surrounded!

And next time you see something that looks cool over there, why don’t you send me a line? or comment somewhere? say something! It’s a cheap ride and a heavy thrill.

Kevin Killian