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Bullet With Butterfly Wings.

22 Jan

Chalkboard in the Temple Bar bathroom.

Most organizers in the poetry scene have to be both steel and sensitivity. The former is a necessary trait for any person who’s interested in running a business successfully. This trait can be even more important when working with artists; most of us are horrendous flakes. Many of us are lazy, self-absorbed, ungrateful, and rife with bad habits – and I love us, yes I do.

But imagine you’re busting your ass to put on the best possible event, working with a venue, cajoling audience and local poets to attend shows, very rarely receiving pay or much credit for the hours you put in, and also having to deal with, for example, an extremely lazy hedonistic night owl loner crashing on your couch for days, eating your food and chasing your (wo)men. *clears throat* However, perhaps most importantly, you also have to be able to turn people down when they ask for features. Even your friends.

But then, to be a good organizer, it’s still crucial to actually love great craft and showmanship. The organizers who lose that love get bitter, and that affects the whole feel of a scene. Even a scene that stays successful on a superficial level – making money, getting press, drawing in crowds – can be extremely unsuccessful in terms of loyalty among artists or quality of work.

Longest intro to Bob Huston ever.

I shadowed Bob around Bellingham for a day. A self-described “person person”, as opposed to a “people person”, Bob has connections to lots of folks in Bellingham. We couldn’t walk a few blocks downtown without Bob making small conversation with someone he knew – smile or joke included. That’s a quality I admire, sure (though I don’t covet it), and obviously an excellent one for an organizer to have. Also good for a poet: as Tara Hardy put it during an iWPS workshop about touring, poets should begin at home. Get local shows, connect to local organizations, and build from there.

We bounced around with our laptops. Bellingham is very pretty. The mountains and fresh air are serious, and so is Bellingham Bay, a silver panther sleeping on the western edge of town. It enchanted me the same way Ithaca, NY did the first time I saw it; overall, Bellingham reminded me strongly, poignantly, of the small New England towns near my high school and college. Not the most diverse town, of course, but probably a pretty good place to grow up.

Bob’s spent most of his life in Bellingham. Given the fact that I’ve had many homes, temporary and otherwise, I found the story of his growth interesting. Having a constant foundation allows one to build in very different ways. Relatively speaking, not a lot of poets in the scene know about Bellingham – but the open mic is fifteen years old, and, as mentioned in an earlier post, it’s of exceptional quality.

Always working.

Besides running the slam, Bob’s begun a small press (mentioned in an earlier post) to showcase local poets, and he’s very recently started traveling for himself. A man of plans and schemes, for sure. I like being around people who are driven. And I had a clear sense that Bob really intends to grow himself and his scene, and that he has the means to do both.



When people can’t or don’t want to buy books from me, or aren’t satisfied giving me a simple compliment, high-five or hug, they sometimes offer tokens of their admiration. Here are a few I’ve received:

* A wish stone to throw in the river. (Portland)

The other side says, "Laura's Skipping Stone"

* A drawing of myself from behind saying, “Hips + shoulders + hair – hair wins!” (Atlanta)

* A rose made out of a napkin. (Boise)

* A blood-spattered sheet of paper with an Aldous Huxley book recommendation scrawled on it. (Berkeley)

* A scarf someone thought was mine. (New York)


That night, we went back to the Temple Bar for a while, then Bob took me to Honey Moon and introduced me to Linda, who was very sweet to us, and who has the most beautiful tattoo.

Pretty, ain't it?

Little Guy was dancing around the room, and we drank the house’s honey wine. A wonderful last night in Bellingham, the little town that could, and will.