Poetry and Generosity

This is an open note of thanks to Paul Fericano. I had a great time reading at the Broken Word series at Farmer and the Cook last night, and listening to Danielle Camacho, P.Lyn Middleton, Quin Mallory, Paul Fericano, Crystal Salas, Steve Sprinkel, and Johnny Fonteyn weave words into the warm summer night. Afterward, I got to talking with Paul, and he showed me one of the gorgeous, limited-edition offset-print broadsides he creates. On remarking how much I liked it, he gave it to me. And then another. In fact, a whole set.

Strangely enough, this is not the first time I have gone to a poetry reading and come home with a gift. It seems to me that the best kinds of writing communities have, at their heart, a spirit of generosity. This was certainly my experience in the MFA program, where my advisers gave so much more than what was asked of them by the university. And so, with so much talk about “greatness” in poetry, I would like to propose a new definition — that poets not be measured so much by what the Paris Review says about their twelfth collection — but by how poetry inspires them to keep giving back. The product of great poets is great poems. But, so often in my experience, the by-product is generosity.

Broken Word at the Farmer and the Cook

I had the pleasure of reading a few poems tonight alongside Judy Oberlander, Joan Nicholson, Steve Sprinkel, and Johnny Fonteyn in the front patio of The Farmer and The Cook. Despite noise from an occasional bus or rap-spewing low rider, the air was deliciously warm, and the stage was backed by swaying trees. Overcoming initial hesitation, I read a poem featuring sushi at this charming all-vegetarian restaurant. Nobody threw potatoes.

On the contrary, the atmosphere was friendly and casual, aided in part by the well-received happy hour offer of one dollar off organic beer and wine. The patio was packed, and chatty at intermission. P. Lyn Middleton did an excellent job emceeing the evening, with just the right blend of structure and southern grace. This was the second in what appears to be a very promising new series of readings, and the perfect way to spend a summer evening in Ojai.