This week in St. Louis at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood neighborhood, I attended a rousing session of poetry written and read by both the noted Quincy Troupe and another poet fried Patrick Rosal at the Observable Readings series founded by Aaron Bell and now sponsored (it’s free!) by the St. Louis Poetry Center.\
In case you’re not familiar with these two poets, here are their bios as published on the Observable Readings site:
Quincy Troupe is the author of eight volumes of poetry and six non-fiction works. The Pursuit of Happyness, a biography, was a New York Times best-seller; The Architecture of Language, a book of poems, won the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. He is editor of Black Renaissance Noire, a literary journal of the Institute of Africana Studies at New York University.
Patrick Rosal is the author of two poetry collections; Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive, which won the Members’ Choice Award from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and most recently My American Kundiman, which won the Association of Asian American Studies 2006 Book Award. His poems and essays have been published widely. He taught creative writing for many years at Bloomfield College and twice served on the faculty of Kundiman’s Summer Retreat for Asian American Poets.
Though I’ve often wanted to attend Observable Readings, this is the first time I’ve been able to make it all the way there. My time was well spent. The poets were excellent read in a welcoming ambiance of the Schlafly Bottleworks taproom and several of my friends among the assembled company.
Both Patrick and Quincy are empassioned poets encompassing the political and the personal in their work. Their reading matches their skill as poets. I need to say upfront that I’m normally not a big fan of Spoken Word performances of the type one tends to find at poetry slams and such. I find them overwhelming, often strident and insistent. These poets whose reading certainly leans in that direction (I’d guess) are not like that a’tall! Their embrace is so wide that the feeling the listener is left with is a sense of compassion for the tenderness and fragility of human life and the world we find ourselves in.
Both, to quote a Quincy Troupe line used in his introduction “come from the truth wid it.” Their poetry is visceral, kinesthetic, and almost too hard to contain without making utterances and physical gestures. How I longed to be in an audience making this kind of expression of receiving the poetry, in concert. But, I didn’t want to be the lone white woman at the back table, uulating or jumping up and down. I didn’t want to misbehave. “Oh, misbehave!” Patrick Rosal urged when I brought this up in conversation after the reading.
So, instead, we had the polite applause in between poems and poets…the kind that I feel interrupts the flow of the reading. How I wished that an announcement had been made, saying, “Please hold your applause until the end, but feel free to hoot and holler, laugh, sigh, and cry, as much as you wish in response to these empassioned artists. You are riding in a Catillac, driven by a master.”