Last night, I went to Books and Books down in Coral Gables to hear Barbra Nightingale read. It shouldn't feel like such an undertaking: one of the reasons that my spouse and I chose to live where we live is that we thought it was close to equidistant between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Still, it's a much easier zip up to Ft. Lauderdale than Miami (and Coral Gables is south of Miami).
On the way, I passed not one, but two accidents. You know, I can't remember ever seeing a vehicle flipped upside down on the highway before we moved here in 1998, but down here, it's a fairly common occurrence. Even with the two accidents and lightning flashing in all directions ahead of me, I made good time.
I LOVE Books and Books. It's easily one of the best bookstores in the Southeast U.S.; only Malaprops Books in Asheville comes close. Every time I'm there, I think, why don't I come here more often?
I enjoyed seeing area poets and chatting before the reading. I'm always amazed at how many people I know, and from such a wide variety of experiences. I've taught with some of them, taken workshops with some of them, and attended events at the Florida Center for the Book with some of them. Before the recession squeezed us so severely, I could even hire some of them as adjuncts, if they were in the market for work.
I've liked Barbra Nightingale's poems since I first knew her back in 1998, when I taught at Broward Community College. She read from her just published book Geometry of Dreams. She made sure that the wine was open before the reading, so we sat and sipped our wine and savored her poems. It was such a perfect way to spend a Friday night.
I've noticed lately that after a poetry reading, I'm not in a mood to stand and make small talk. On some nights, I feel bad about this. I feel like I should be a better socializer. My inner critic sees all the opportunities for networking that I pass up by leaving early. But my poetry self wants to prolong the mental state that poetry provides. I want to continue to think about the images I've just heard and the connections that the poems have made. I want my mind to zing to all the inspirations for my own poems that a good poetry reading provokes. I want to curl up with the poetry book I've just bought.
So last night, I slipped away. I drove past the neon lit skyscrapers and the highway construction and devoured Barbra Nightingale's book in one fell swoop. I love that she references Math and Physics and Languages. I love her Miranda character, who shows up in this book. I love that her poems are both smart and accessible. I love coming home from a poetry reading, with the poet's voice still in my head, to read the work; I find the poems I've just heard, and appreciate them again, and then I move on to the unheard poems.
Here are some lines to whet your appetite. They're from the section of the book called "The Ex Files," which is from Geometry of Dreams (WordTech Editions 2009):
"but when a storm knocks out power, / can openers are for cans, not veins."
"I should have known, somehow, / that your fascination for dying stars / would lead to your death."
"Your mother plaits her bony fingers"