By June Lucarotti
With impressive introductions from Naropa students Angel Dominguez and Sarah Richards-Graba, and JKS staff member Kyle Pivarnik, the semester’s first What Where Series readers kicked off with energy and emotion.
J. Michael Martinez started us off with humor and humility in a series of self-portraits, revealing that he often talks to himself in the character of his friends (don’t worry Michael, me too!), and we are very glad he doesn’t “keep thoughts to himself.” His poetry brimmed over with animals, shells, bodies, and place, and fruit salad. I was inspired to see where I could find room for these in my own writing, and I hope you were too! Michael’s work is full of “fairytales we repeated to each other,” and by the end of the reading, I definitely wanted to join him in the “garden where ‘yes’ is the only island” and “solitude is language again.”
As soon as Idris Goodwin claimed ownership of the water glass beside him, while still promising to only drink on one side for Lily Hoang, I knew it would continue to be a good night. The minute Idris started speaking, everyone listened. He spoke with his hands, he spoke with his heart, and he spoke with a strong sense of musicality. As he reclaimed his own name and asked “who defines the dictionary?” He probed the audience to do the same in their own lives. He explored intersections with agility and ease, making our bellies hurt from laughter, describing a hypothetical meeting with Easy E and Bush. He says he “has a PhD in talking to cops,” but it seems he is an expert in many languages. His humor and authenticity immediately connected with the audience beyond a writing level to a human level. Idris is a poet who does not waste our time.
Lily Hoang has “a big crush on Naropa” and the feeling is mutual. With a focus on family, folklore, and fairytale, she immediately engaged the audience by asking someone to pick page numbers for her to read from. Lily did not shy away from oppressive social dynamics in the world as she told us “groups on the margins like to push each other off page” and warned, “reader, soon enough, you will be grouped.” With her, we are also taken back to when we were “little girl(s) learning to look at other little girls.” With a charming fast pace and emotive voice, Lily led us into an effortless weaving between poetry and prose where she let us fall in love with one of her characters only to be more than a bit heartbroken. An emotional tug like this is no small feat.
I have to agree with Lily Hoang–what really is the difference between being drunk on whiskey and being drunk on knowledge? After this reading, we were drunk on laughter, on tears, on music, and on questions. In true Naropa fashion, I am filled with nothing but gratitude for our readers. Namaste.
June Lucarotti is a poet and children’s writer who grew up in San Francisco and a current MFA candidate in Writing and Poetics in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She received her B.A. in Social Welfare and minor in Creative Writing from UC Berkeley, working with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People and Glide. June infuses her writing with social justice, Buddhism, special education, Spanglish, and laughter.