The Hermit Poet

August 16, 2005

Reading at the Alta Coffee House (8/10)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 12:48 am

Well, it’s a little late, but here’s the report from the venue:

Last Wednesday I drove out to Newport Beach for my reading. The traffic was light and I made good time. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find parking almost immediately. Better yet, it seems that Newport Beach is quite the parking friendly haven — all the street meters are free after 6:00 pm. Try finding that in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, or Hollywood!

The Alta Coffee House is cozy — not impossibly small, but just about right for having a smallish reading. I think we had around 15-20 people in attendance. The readers stand at the front with their backs to the window, looking out over the tables in the coffee house. The host (actually guest host since Lee Mallory was unexpectedly called out of town) was Michael Miller – a younger looking guy who writes for one of the Orange County newspapers. He was very nice, worked hard to keep the reading moving at a good pace, and genuinely enthusiastic about the whole thing.

After a few songs by Tom Monroe (the musical feature), we had a few open readers, then it was my turn. I had 20-25 minutes to do my thing, so I read 14 poems and ended at 23 minutes. I led off with my newest piece called Bio (or a few words about myself that may not necessarily be true) — something that I had written largely to make fun of the types of bios people give in the cover letters. Of course, like most of my “comical” work, it usually starts funny then ends with a more serious or philosophical turn. In any case, it was a nice transition piece before I shifted over to the rest of my poems all drawn from the manuscript I’ve been working on all summer.

All in all, it worked out well. We had a couple more musical pieces from Tom Monroe, a few more open readers, then Louise Mathias read. This was actually my second time hearing Louise read — I caught her a few months ago when she featured with Victoria Chang at Tebot Bach in Huntington Beach. She read mostly from her book, Lark Apprentice, but also read some of her newer work which sounded very intriguing. I’m curious to see where this next book will take her. While our styles are somewhat different, it was interesting to find little resonances and parallels between the pieces we had selected for reading. The recurring theme seemed to be ghosts.

After the reading wrapped up and people filtered out, Louise and I had a great conversation about the process of assembling a first book. She pointed out that we have a tendency to place rather high hopes on what our books will do for us and mean to others in the world. But, when it comes down to it, usually we’re exactly the same person we were before the book was done. Publishing the book won’t make you happy. Won’t make you famous. Won’t make you fantastically wealthy. But it does open a few doors and does help you close a chapter in your life. Some books will make you famous or wealthy, but for the vast majority of us, it’s only a beginning. We have much much more to do afterward.

One Response to “Reading at the Alta Coffee House (8/10)”

  1. Louise Mathias Says:

    Hey Neil– you were the star of the night! I think the audience really loved you , whereas I caught more than a couple of people looking at me like I had two heads!

    Be persistant with journals. I think it’s 90% of the game. Louise

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