I’m part of a lot of poetry readings in the L.A. area. Sometimes I perform, sometimes I just listen. I was at one the other night where I read with some old friends. It was an unlikely setting: a restaurant/bar with a large glass semi-wall separating our space from the bar with its color TV and play-off games. And rather than get up and read on a stage, the mic was passed around from poet to poet. When it was my turn, I just stood up.
But here’s the point. I was reminded of how primitive it is to tell a bunch of people a story. Charles and Laurel Ann and I write a loose-lined, easy-going poem, anyway. So we essentially took turns telling stories.
How far back does this go? All the way to the caves, wouldn’t you think? Some mighty hunter or huntress comes in, drops forty pounds of meat and brags. Somebody has a dream and wants everybody to feel as scared or as excited as he was. Somebody at the bottom of the pecking order discovers he can lie beautifully and people will see him differently.
Can’t you see the tribe around the fire, glad to be safe for another night. Maybe it’s raining. A child whimpers. There’s an ominous sound from outside but it turns out to be nothing. Then someone says, “The most amazing thing happened to me today.” And everybody stops chewing and listens.