Thursday, October 30, 2008

TBLWTB @ Good Vibrations!

by Kevin Simmonds

Good Vibrations
is a sex shop, a San Francisco Bay-area institution. They sell toys, massage oils, lube, condoms, books and even have a back room. Not the kind you'd expect though. It's a gallery—only in San Francisco(!)—and a great venue for the SF Bay-area premiere reading of To Be Left with the Body.

I arrived first and Marvin K. White showed a little after 6:30pm. As everyone feasted on the cheeses, crackers and fruit (ah, papaya), Jewelle Gomez arrived. A few sips of the bubbly and she was ready. The audience was ready too—and precisely the motley crew of an audience we'd hoped for. Among them friends of poet and artist extraordinaire Truong Tran; a spirited gang from Larkin Street Youth Services; B/GLAM co-founder Cedric Brown; sweet-faced poet and activist Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano; voracious reader and Cal professor Matthew Yau; and, oddly enough, London-based scholar and writer Sophie Mayer. She'd just arrived in San Francisco. I don’t remember how in the world she heard about the event.

Marvin opened the reading by citing the 2005 study which found that over 45% of black men who have sex with men are infected with HIV. This, of course, is why AIDS Project Los Angeles’s publications are essential by informing Black and Latino queer communities, annihilating societal ignorance, and exposing the willful neglect of our government in addressing this crisis.

Jewelle, with her warmth and refreshingly unadorned presence, read "Choirs," a stunning remembrance of her late cousin Allen, a gospel tenor. She closed with a poem based on the after party of the premiere of the film Absolutely Positive where she and Doris, a woman in the film, cut up about the changing same of race and invisibility.

I was up next and remember only how the audience laughed in unexpected places. I suppose I set the tone by reading a new poem inspired by a gchat exchange with my friend Brian McQueen. Let's just say it's about the word "faggot." For more, check out the forthcoming video clip.

Marvin closed the reading with "14", that powerful invocation of remembering and witnessing, followed by manifestos on dicks and ass—in particular, Marvin's ass. The night's glorious amen was "Glossolalia," inspired by the 2008 Cave Canem retreat, homage to black drag queens.

The night was lit.