Taon and Sholeh at Tebot Bach
Outside of the club scene, beyond the strip mall, and almost entirely off the InterNet exist venues where the captives of society converge to spend some time in a world not driven by the dollar or peer pressure. The pressed white shirts and the cellulose pundits scoff and think the name for these events –“poetry readings” — is reason enough to dismiss them as unnewsworthy. So far, the writing about them in The Orange has been at best advertising copy drummed out as if we still all banged at typewriters for a deadline. With this, I hope to change that, to speak of the experience of hearing and seeing poets in the rough.
On Friday night, I dragged my wife and a muttering Windblown to the monthly Tebot Bach reading in Huntington Beach which takes place in the Community Room at Golden West College. Tebot Bach is one of two organizations dedicated to poetry outside of the universities and the bookstores which carries the clout of nonprofit status, the other being Casa Romantica. Led by Mifawny Kaiser, Tebot Bach strives to demonstrate “the power of poetry to transform one’s life experiences”. The venue features open mike readings and featured poets on the last Friday of every month.
And there I go, sounding like advertising copy.
We shuffled in twenty five minutes late due to an accident in the fast lane on the 405. A silence between open-mike poets allowed us to slip around to the far the only table with three open seats. I got comfortable as host Daniel MacGinn introduced the evening’s first guest, Aaron Roberts.
Aaron belongs to a class of poets whose published work cannot be found through the usual book search engines even though they bear an ISBN. His presence at the podium is self-effacing. He begins his reading by reciting the work of another poet, then reaching into his sheaf of loose notes, a stapled blue-covered chapbook, and his permabound volume Reinventing Taon for the substance of his sharing. I call it sharing because Aaron does not strike me as a performer. He does not stand on tables or wear outlandish clothes, walk up to members of the audience and shout in their ears. He comes to the reading to read. This is his poet’s schtick, founded on humility, shyness, and very neatly trimmed facial hair.
His poetry speaks of contemporary life as he lives it. The title poem of his first truly published collection comes from a misreading of his name as he signed it to a painting. “Taon” represents his creative side where
I am both the puppeteer And the marionette Pulling my own strings As memories crash Through my mind Riding side-saddle atop Landslides of emotion.
It is emblematic of Aaron that when he signed my copy of Reinventing Taon that he wrote:
Thank you for buying the work of another poor poet struggling to live in Orange County.
In Aaron’s world view, we all strive and in this we are equals.
Another local reviewer of poetry said of the principal feature of the evening:
One doesn’t get more exotic or international that Sholeh Wolp