Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can you hear the coffee as it's per-co-latin'?

Notebooks. So many kinds, so illustrative, such wonderful receptacles.

As previously posted, I took copious notes at the remarkable Rising Tide Conference. For me to put all of my observations into one post would be ludicrous, so I'm going to break them down. First there needs to be a little explanation.

Rising Tide was a conference put together by an amazing group of local activist bloggers. Seemingly conceived during a rather drunken dinner, which I stupidly couldn't manage to get to even though it was three blocks from my house, these folks ran with it and put together a forum covering a wide range of topics pertinent to New Orleans and blogging in New Orleans. Held at the New Orleans Yacht Club (which was mostly decimated after Katrina), the location was a stroke of genius as there were out of town bloggers and others there who saw the boats still turned upside down a year later, one still completely submerged, only its mast above water.

I went to the conference and sat on the floor with my old trusty steno pad. Being an inveterate scribbler, I listened and scribbled. It was interesting, informative and fascinating. The topics were engaging and the panelists engaged, but on a personal level it gave rise to a different kind of tide in me.

I spent that Saturday among the bloggers, some of the brightest minds in our city. I spend Thursday evenings among the poets of 17 Poets, some of the most passionate and creative minds in the city. It was an interesting contrast, but many of the ideas were the same. The pain of our city's condition certainly is the same in both places, just expressed differently. Okay, and the notebooks were for sure, VERY different. I felt like two boats were speeding down a waterway and I had one foot on each deck.

17 Poets is the brainchild of Dave Brinks, one of the premiere poets of our city, and respected nationwide. It was a fixture before the storm. Every Thursday he presents a featured poet who is followed by anyone who signs up on the sheet at the bar. Some extraordinary writing going on in this city. The readings are held at the Gold Mine Saloon in the Quarter, and while waiting for the featured reader, you'll find various writers and visitors hanging out, having a drink, looking at the always changing local art work on the walls, and listening to Brinks' incredible CD collection. You're suddenly thrown back into a San Francisco coffeehouse in the 50's half expecting Kerouac and Ginsberg to walk through the door. Instead, inside of an hour, the place will be populated by men and women who look like they just left an office building, having a drink and a laugh with two guys, one sporting bright pink hair, the other extraordinarily long grey dreadlocks. All are respected writers. Some nights there are hookahs on tables, surrounded by varying tobacco mixtures, and people languidly smoking them while discussing FEMA trailers and the latest poetry publishing.

The notebooks at Rising Tide were electronic metal things with hinges in the middle and screens full of reports in words about what was going on inside the yacht club, streaming in real time to the vastness of the Web, (with another screen tracking Ernesto's progress through the Gulf). The notebooks at 17 Poets are cocktail napkins, blank books variously decorated, or some scrap of paper pulled out of a pocket or a purse written on by a pen borrowed from the bartender.

The passion in both is what will make up the body of post-Katrina literature, along with the various scholarly and analytical books on the subject. (I'm not neglecting the visual arts here either. It was Greg Peters, the fabulous Suspect Device, with whom I had this discussion that day, and his editorial cartoons are very definitely a part of this body of post-K work. There are so many artists, using various media, who are contributing visually stunning pieces to the artistic zeitgeist. And hey, don't leave out the musicians!)

What we leave behind in our writing will be what the New Orleanians of 50 years from now will be drawing insight on this storm, this time in our history, from. What was fascinating to me, was the variety of methods, views and emotions that are being tapped in this endeavor. Those future New Orleanians will have a very rich trove from which to gather information.

In the end, I found, it doesn't matter how any of us do it, as long as we DO do it. There has to be something more than MSM archiving for our great grandchildren to peruse. It would appear that the bloggers and the poets are all heading for the same point, although they no doubt don't see it that way. They are truly very distinct groups, both valid and important, and I am grateful to be here observing what they are doing.

r. "moose" jackson, one of the up and coming poets in the city, was sitting at my kitchen table a week or so ago. He and my grandson got into a discussion of words and rhythm. Moose started banging on the table and saying, "Can you hear the coffee when it's per-co-latin'?" My grandson took it up, they banged away at the table changing the rhythm of the words.

When we're writing, reading our fellow bloggers' work, or listening to the poets, what we're really doing is hearing the coffee as it's per-co-latin'.

And wow, what a cup of java that's gonna be.
There will be a new/old post on Katrina Refrigerator blog tomorrow.

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