(Charles Kruger)

One of the treasures of the South Bay poetry scene is Poetry Santa Cruz, a non profit corporation devoted to nurturing the poetry community. They present a reading on the second Tuesday of each month with invited readers that include nationally known poets from around the country as well as local artists.

I have attended several of their monthly readings at Bookshop Santa Cruz (another great resource) and they always include excellent performances and enthusiastic audiences.

Recently, I showed up for a reading by local Bay area poets Kim Addonizio and Susan Browne.

Kim Addonizio has published five books of poetry. One of them, Tell Me, was a 2000 National Book Award Finalist. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships, and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award.

Susan Browne has been widely published, appearing in Ploughshares, Subtropics, River City, The Mississippi Review and Margie (among other journals) and anthologized by Billy Collins in 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Everyday. She has also been featured on Garrison Keillors Writer’s Almanac on NPR.

On this occasion, these two close friends made the unusual decision to read alternately for a single 40 minute set, letting one anothers’ poems inspire their choices. The result was delightful.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

Susan [reading Kim]:  Ask questions of others to show others your interest… How do you like my poem so far? … Do you think I’m pretty? … What would you give up to make me happy?

Kim [reading Susan]: How pure your yearning to be anything other than yourself…

Susan: 2500 left handed people are killed annually from using right-handed products… Most of your thinking is repetitive… At your desk you roll up your sleeve and write another poem about death… You don’t feel like making a transition to the next stanza because you don’t have 3,000 years…

Kim: Souls were arriving, souls were departing… amid the usual screaming and crying… A lot of drinks were being tossed back… a lot of women were thinking about their hair… More than one man was thinking about his penis …

These ladies get down to it with skillful wit and riveting rhythm.

Here is the full set on video. (Yes, I know my hand-held camera was shaky, to say the least. I was laughing a good deal, drinking espresso and being jostled often and vigorously by a happy crowd. The result is worth it, nevertheless).