Saturday, February 05, 2005

Pizza and Poetry

The fiancee performed last night at Poetry and Pizza. A monthly event holding two guilty pleasures together. On the first Friday of each month, free pizza and the opportunity to hear the bright spots of poetry in the Bay area are offerred to anyone and everyone. It is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to support the arts. The proceeds from a donation goes to a local arts organization.

Driving in San Francisco is not one of my favorite things to do. The one way streets, the narrow streets, the hills that reach out to the sky, and the dumb pedestrians who wait on the streets so that they can shave one second in their travel time just plain drive me nuts. Oh, and let's not even get into the potholes. Manholes is more like it.

At any rate, I got to "Escape from New York" a pizza joint a little early. So I walked up the block to find a place where I could eat. Popolo Restaurant is at 375 Bush St. in the financial district. From the SF Chronicle: " For the past six years Popolo Restaurant has served the Financial District with their fine Italian Mediterranean cuisine. Owned and managed by Ladan and Farhad Jalali, Polopo's offers exquisitely delightful fare for both lunch and dinner. Fine food coupled with classic ambiance and a friendly atmosphere make Popolo a perfect setting for client lunches as well as happy hour cocktails."

I was lucky enough to get there during happy hour and to convince the SO to join me for a brief repast before the evening's performances. I ordered the smoked salmon and a plate of flatbread. The SO had chicken wings. The meal was light and delicious. The flatbread was surprisingly flat. I really should pay attention to details like that. I thought they were coming out with some nice bread that was poofy. My bad. The salmon was just right. The salt was not overwhelming. The chicken wings were fried properly. No red blood here. Just crispy skin with tender meat.

I thought about going back to Popolo later in the evening but those were preempted because right across Popolo, there were some strings of light which caught the So's and my eyes. It looked like a fiesta in the Philippines. it turned out that there were about four or five restaurants in the alley.

As time goes on, I am more and more amazed by the performances of the SO. The poems she read were apt for the circumstances of the day. The poems about the Philippine-American War was quite apt considering the current Iraq War. And of course, the point that the Library Congress called the Philippine-American War the Phillipine Insurrection was a good lesson to teach Americans.

The So's performance of the poem "Angel Island" elicited a great response from the audience. The man sitting next to me enounced a guttural sound at the end of the poem. It was as if to say that no words could come out because of the poem. Just emotions evinced by the most primitive sound of man's heart.

Barbara J. P. Reyes was one of the other four poets that evening. She is about fulfill a journey this coming spring when she is to be MFAed. She read from her book "Gravities of Center" and from some from her manuscript. Barbara's direction in poetry is going towards the creation of mythology, specifically Philippine mythology. The "diwata" has been visiting her off and on for the last few months. Unfortunately, the diwata sometimes does not give as quickly or as easily as other muses. In one of her poems, the SO was collaborating as the bakground agong beater. I was the stand. Imagine five minutes which seemed like an hour. I was standing there holding a bronze agong and I was hoping that I did not faint from all the attention. Bwahahhaha.

Elz Cuya set up the whole affair. From the Youth Speaks website: " Elz Cuya is a San Francisco native, born to immigrant Filipino parents. She graduated from U.C Berkeley with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communications, then worked in the broadcast industry for nearly 10 years, eight of which spent at the all-news radio station, KCBS. In 2000, Elz founded The Poetry Mission, the Mission District-based literary collective that presents poetry, performance art and music. She joined Youth Speaks in 2003 as co-coordinator for the annual Friendraiser, and the organization couldn't get rid of her since. Elz enjoys Argentine Tango and opera. She is also working on a collection of poems to be published in the Fall of 2005."

Ms. Cuya is at the beginning of her poetry career. As a friend of hers remarked, her poetry has gone from Kraft cheese to provolone. She is planning to publish a book of poetry in late 2005. The poem which intrigued me the most is the one about her father. She wonders why it is that her father always seems to give her money. Is money the great symbol for her father? A symbol of what?

The last performer was Joellene Buccat a freshman at USF. "Joellene is an 18-year old Filipina poetess from Daly City. She works closely with Youth Speaks as a member of their youth advisory board. She is currently working with several other female writers from Youth Speaks on a publication to be released this summer. Joellene studies at the University of San Francisco." Her poem about the city of San Francisco and its inhabitants captured my attention. Good detail and great turn at the end of the poem. Everyone needs to look out for the time when she publishes her book.

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