For almost eighteen years, Su Polo www.supolo.com has been curating the weekly Saturn Series in NYC. She has held it at several Manhattan locations, done it with two others, with one other, with different others, and for now, Su Polo is flying solo. She’s landed at the place where I first met her about fourteen years ago, the upstairs level of Revival on East 15 Street near Irving Place, a quick scoot from the Union Square train station.
The Saturn Series is on Monday nights which is one of the evenings that I work in the Bronx. It is also one of my favorite places to read. I think it is a combination of when I became aqcuainted with her reading series, how attentive her audiences are, and how special Su Polo makes me and everyone feel. Over the years, whenever I’ve had a Monday evening off from work, I’d try to get to the Saturn Series. Even if I dragged myself through depression or battled bad weather, it has always felt worth it. I’ve always come back home feeling a bit more nourished.
I arrived a little late for their 8pm start time, went to the bar first, and learned they were all out of white wine. That sort of forced me to the healthier choice of red wine. I didn’t know if they serve food or not, so I didn’t bring anything though I was hungry. I asked about french fries and learned they have no kitchen. The bartender was very accomodating and offered me menus from nearby places that deliver, but I decided I would run out on the break for pizza. I took my glass of red wine and went upstairs.
Su was talking to the people and reminding them there is no mic and to project their voices. She saw me enter and, as usual, made me feel famous. Many give up trying to say my last name, but she didn’t. “Mindy Matijasevic’s in the house!” she said. What a greeting. How can I not love that?
I saw some familiar faces though most looked friendly whether familiar or not. There was a bunch of comfortable, worn, velvety sofas and chairs. I sat on one of the sofas at first as the open mic began. Each reader had something special, and the range of subject matter was very stimulating. Here is only a sample of the open mic portion of the evening.
“…You don’t need to be crazy to slit a psychiatrist’s throat. You just need a knife.” (Andy Comess)
“When itemizing the world, do not use words. …” (Jay Chollick, Poet Laureate of the Saturn Series)
A side note: Some years back, I once wrote to Jay and told him I wished we were related. He wrote back, “We are.”
Phyllis Krim read several poems ranging from her hissing steam pipe and the Con Ed man to her red hair, yellow hat, and orange glasses and how if someone hasn’t noticed her, it’s not that she hasn’t done her part. There were many more wonderful readers. Leigh Harrison, Madeline Artenberg, Fred Simpson, and more. We heard about grandmothers and aunts and from Roberta Curley, a single woman trying to fix her toilet and learning the parts involved were a ball and cock. She eventually calls in her ex-husband for that project.
During the open mic portion of the evening, Su shared snacks — yuca chips and peeps. It helped me reach the break when I’d have my pizza.
The first feature up was David Winter. He opened with his poem, “How to Make Mistakes.” He presented varied subject matter and wrote in the voice of others at times, from gangsters to women, as in “White Women’s Blues.”
The second featured poet was Harry Ellison, known in the NYC poetry circles for his writing and teaching. He used words from my upbringing, words like credenza and housedress. He read about Sophie, once a ballerina, now in a wheelchair. It was clear Harry enjoyed his reading, as we all did.
After a short break, the open mic continued. I was part of it. I read from my seat, now a chair next to Su. The listening could be felt, so after reading a few short poems, I read a first draft of a personal one. The people were so supportive. Still, I felt the need to say, “My grandma deserves revision.”
(c) 2012 Mindy Matijasevic