The final event of last weekend's Tucson Poetry Festival was a reading by five poets that was so deep that the folks who witnessed it probably woke up with a kind of hangover that had nothing to do with the fine wines and killer absinthe they drank while young gods spat torrents of truth, word bullets, into the mic.
Yes, it was one hell of a Holy Ghost party at the exquisite, candle-lit Merci Gallery. TPF Director Teré Fowler-Chapman worked her ass off for months to make sure, with the help of a dedicated festival board.
The theme of this year's event was "Poetry and Purpose." And the featured poets, Mahogany Browne, Patrick Rosal, Emi Mahmoud and Tanaya Winder--I'm saving one for a special shout out--demonstrated all the purposes of poetry.
I'm still picking the shards out of my brain and examining them carefully, like those chunks of rock miners search hoping to find gold or diamonds or other precious stuff embedded in there somewhere. I don't have to search hard, though. Every word was precious.
But a couple of the artists I met this weekend were lesser known gems. And here comes that shout out I mentioned, to Ariana Brown an Afro-Mexicana conjure woman who had the littlest book on the table. Handmade, probably.
But it sold out in seconds after she invoked all kinds of spirits up there in front of us. She could've sold a big old box full, but she only gave us a little stack because she's just getting started and I think she doesn't realize, yet, how hungry people are going to be for the spells she casts.
During her workshop--all the poets helped us find some pretty powerful words of our own on the second day--she got us to call forth and celebrate our ancestors. Some of us had to walk over to the little street shrine next door afterwards, yearning to keep those conversations going just a little while longer.
Invocation, up top, is probably her most famous poem. All the black girls in the house will know why.
But I want to give you a few more words to live by. You can hear her talk about her work via the PBS Newshour, but here's a little taste to copy and paste and keep somewhere for those days when you just need a little extra juju. At the end of the poem, Mexico, 1521, she told us:
...if you are alive, you are descended from a people who refused to die. nothing is more sacred than you.
Take that with you today. Live with it, from now on. Watch what happens when you do.
The other surprise, Katie Haverly, wasn't at the reading. She sang for us at another event the day before, held in The Book Stop, a book store beloved by people who still love books, real books. She sang songs for people who love real songs, still, too. Channeling Joni Mitchell but updated and rocked up some.
My jaw dropped when she started dancing by the doorway as the street cars and street kids walked by, some of them also stunned by what they weren't sure they were actually hearing.
Here's Gold Rush, the song about the 60s/70s Laurel Canyon music scene--my favorite. Couldn't find it live, but she sounds just like this live, trust me:
And she rocks out like this, too:
No lie, she just stood there in the doorway of a book store and killed it like that. No band, that day. But we didn't feel the least bit cheated. She can hold her own and some.
So yeah, all that happened. And all of us who were lucky enough to see it happen are still reeling from it, days later.
Come on over, next year--the Tucson Poetry Festival Web site will give you a heads up. For now, go find all the poets. Put Katie Haverly on for mood music. Magic time.