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For the love of words

Posted: November 18th, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Balboa Park, Feature, Featured | No Comments

By Cynthia Robertson

Poets of all ages and skill levels gather once a month in Balboa Park to share their favorite works.

The next meeting of the Poetry Party of San Diego will be on Friday, Dec. 2, in the Santa Fe Room at Balboa Park Club.

Earlier this fall, the Poetry Party hosted its annual Wordstock Festival of Oral Glory on Oct. 7, which brought together poets of all ages for an open mic session. The festival also featured poems that were published in the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Donations to the festival helps fund the Poetry Party as well as the annual Garden Theatre Festival held during the summer in Balboa Park.

Reg. E. Gaines recites one of his poems at the Poetry Party Open Mic (Photos by Cynthia Robertson)

Reg. E. Gaines recites one of his poems at the Poetry Party Open Mic (Photos by Cynthia Robertson)

Christophver R. —that’s his legal full name, as he likes to show in his passport — founded Poetry Party and Garden Theatre Festival in 2011.

“We are happy to have anyone and everyone who is interested in poetry come and read their own work or the work of other poets. We have poets of every level here,” he said.

He introduced Tim Evans as the first poet to read for the open mic. Evans’ poetry was about the frustrations and fears of a poet and artist, and the beauty of it, too. The last line of his final poem, “misplaced the moon,” stirred an audible murmur of appreciation throughout the room.

“Just as I like to say, caution: Poetry may be inspirational to your life,” Christophver R. said.

Rudy G., short for Rudolfo Gonzalez, with long wavy black hair and sporting a fedora, read poems of what life was like as an artist.

“If I exist to you, I am an inner city miracle,” he read from one of his poems.

“I couldn’t be a ‘we’ without you,” Rudy G. said. “For me, poetry is not a private matter. I bring vigor back to poetry.”

Reg E Gaines, a renowned performance poet, entertained the audience with the recital of his impassioned poems. His reading style was a hybrid of rap and blues.

Many of the poets are also artists, like Randi Hawkins, who exhibits her mixed media paintings at a studio in Spanish Village. She had spent the entire day at the park, first at the studio, then at the regular Poetry Party from 3 to 5 p.m., then sharing more poems at the open mic. She had also brought some cheese and crackers for refreshments.

Randi Hawkins and Leon Alexander chat with each other after reciting their poems.

Randi Hawkins and Leon Alexander chat with each other after reciting their poems.

The first poem she read was titled “Civil War Villanelle,” a homage about her great-great-grandfather who was a Union soldier killed by Confederates.

Hawkins explained that a villanelle is a type of structured poem with five stanzas of three lines each, and six stanzas of four lines each, with two main rhyming couplets.

In her “Civil War Villanelle,” Hawkins borrowed a line from Walt Whitman’s poem, using the words, “Oh Captain, My Captain.”

Hawkins read another one of her own poems, “Living Stone,” which she set to the tune of “Wandering Stranger.”

“It’s a poem from my pagan self, hearkening to the Celtic tradition,” said Hawkins, who has been with Poetry Party for four years.

Everyone applauded Diane Hardy after she read her poem. “We must endure, we must,” she said, and then smiled big at finishing.

“She did endure. She did indeed,” Christophver R. said, giving her a thumbs-up.

Throughout the evening, the poets took turns reading. Their poems touched on every subject imaginable, even about how technology has encroached on the time that artists and poets have to work.

After the open mic, Christophver R. invited poets who had been published in the San Diego Poetry Annual, which was on sale at the event, to give readings.

Published poet Jim Moreno read his “Politics and Polarities,” a poem about the widening disparities in social status between the rich and the poor, the business world and the artist.

“He’s our revolutionary poet, an activist,” Christophver R. said.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-09-17-pmAs the night wound down to an end, the poets gathered in corners to talk, giving each other encouragement on their poetry readings.

Christophver R. thanked everyone. “This is our pilgrimage. That’s what poets do. They get tired of waiting for definition, so they make up their own,” he said.

The Poetry Party first came together as a group in 2011 at the Senior Lounge in Balboa Park. Last year, the group moved meetings to the larger Santa Fe Room.

“I love the light and atmosphere in here,” Hawkins said.

— Cynthia Robertson is a local freelance writer.

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