Arts & Events

Reading to Benefit KPFA, Poetry Flash

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:01:00 PM

Hearts Gathering: Poetry, Laureates and Music for Valentine’s Day,” a benefit for KPFA and Poetry Flash, with performances by poets Diane Di Prima, Michael McClure, Carol Muske-Duke (California Poet Laureate) and Al Young (former California Poet Laureate, 2005–08), accompanied by Dan Robbins on bass, as well as famed didjeridoo player Stephen Kent and vocalist Eda Maxym, with performance artist, Buddhist teacher and author Wes “Scoop” Nisker as emcee, will be held Saturday at King Middle School Auditorium, co-sponsored by the Daily Planet and Moe’s Books.  

Kay Ryan, Bay Area poet recently named US Poet Laureate, originally on the program, has regretfully canceled her reading. 

Diane Di Prima, author of 43 books of poetry and a number of plays, whom Allen Ginsberg called “heroic in life and poetics,” first came to prominence during the latter part of the Beat movement in the early 1960s.  

Michael McClure at 22 read in the famous 6 Gallery reading, which featured Ginsberg’s premiere reading of “Howl.” McClure has taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and is noted for The Beard and other plays, as well as his collaborations with keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors and saxophonist David Sanborn.  

Carol Muske-Duke established and taught at Free Space in the Women’s House of Detention at Riker’s Island, New York. She founded the Ph.D. Program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California, where she presently teaches. Her poetry has been praised by Harold Bloom.  

Berkeley resident Al Young has written many books of poetry, novels and essays about jazz and blues. Bill Cosby has said, “When I open up any of his books, I listen.”  

Stephen Kent has five solo albums to his credit, and has played with Tuvan throat singers, Taiko drummers, Brazilian percussionist Airto and famed flute player Paul Horn. He presently plays with Eda Maxym and her band.  

Bob Baldock of KPFA talked about how the annual events—and this one in particular—took shape: “Every year for at least the past 10, I’ve tried to produce an event around Valentine’s Day, coming from love much more than from Hallmark, from whatever comes to people’s minds beyond hand-holding—a place to go at far less cost than going out to a special restaurant. And we’ve always packed the various churches and school auditoriums where we’ve held them.” 

Baldock continued: “This year, I met with Joyce Jenkins of Poetry Flash and Owen Hill of Moe’s, to approach some poets who would work well together on a program like this—and who would be understandable to everyone. 

“The people involved seem natural to me for something like this ... Al, in fact, is a neighbor and longtime friend—and the way he works together with Dan, that great sound I love—a dead-solid natural. Scoop Nisker used to fill in on KPFA for Larry Bensky; out of nowhere he’d ask guests about their favorite books. I was staggered by his literacy. And to get Stephen Kent and Eda, a last-minute thing, relieved me; it really makes it an event with music. We don’t know what’s going to happen on that stage. Most of them have never worked together before. There’re no grants, nothing behind it; it is what it is. And, KPFA willing, it’ll be broadcast at some point.” 

KPFA, Poetry Flash, the Daily Planet and Moe’s Books will have information tables at the event. Owen Hill, who organizes the reading series at Moe’s and stocks the poetry sections, has promised a good selection of books by the readers, including some lesser-known titles. 

Hearts Gathering: Poetry, Laureates and Music For Valentine’s Day 

A benefit for KPFA and Poetry Flash.  

8-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at King Middle School Auditorium, 1781 Rose St.  

$15 admission online or at supportive bookstores; $20 at the door through brownpapertickets. com.  

848-6767 ext. 612. Free parking. Wheelchair accessible.