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The Center hosts readings, workshops, lectures, and publishes a variety of poetry publications. SPC is located in the R25 Arts Complex located on the corner of R & 25th Streets in midtown Sacramento.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

C.E. Chaffin and Christopher Buckley at SPC - May 24, 2010

I'd like to begin by thanking Tim for bringing C.E. Chaffin and Christopher Buckley together for last night's reading. These two fine poets complemented one another. C.E. mentioned that his work is often considered dark, and if it was a bit on the dark side, Christopher's reading was punctuated with some humor and lightness in the stories he shared between poems.

C.E. mentioned the tie exhibit (if you haven't been to the SPC in several weeks, you should see the collection that a MatrixArts member has on exhibit - 30 years of collecting) before handing out copies of his book, Unexpected Light (published by Diminuendo Press), to audience members so that they could follow along while he read. He said that he believes it's easier.

The most touching piece he read, hands down, was "At the Vietnam War Memorial." This poem was prefaced by Mr. Chaffin with a story about visiting a cemetery and reading the gravestones of the veterans. The birth and death dates were listed alongside the wars (WWI, WWII). He noticed, however, that those veterans who died in 1966, 1968, or 1970 (these were the years he mentioned), had no mention of their war listed. Their deaths were not dignified. That was the war of his time, he told the audience. C.E. could barely contain his emotion as he finished the final stanza of the poem. From the audience's response, I think the emotion was shared by all.

Other poems he read included: "Boundaries," which had been called the best poem on the net, "Company of Crows," "Chico Creek," and "Christ's Lighthouse," a poem about redeption in a difficult world, he told us. He read "The Game of Life," after asking how many had played it, and "Glass Giraffe," the poem most often called for at readings, he said. My favorite quote of the evening might be, "Poetry as therapy is great." He also said that it is "important in poetry to get the facts right." This quote followed his reading of "Company of Crows," and a discussion of how he had to change some facts. He also read several love poems, which are located at the back of the book. His final poem was "To Kathleen, After Neruda." He called Pablo Neruda the most prolific trop generator after Shakespeare.

Christopher Buckley followed with a reading from his most recent book, Rolling Down the Bones (published by University of Tampa Press), which is his 17th book of poetry. Mr. Buckley said that the book is surrounded in place, that place is very important and is the coefficient of points of vision. Since the audience was over 29 years old, he didn't feel it was necessary to explain terms like "rolling the bones." He quipped that he often has to explain many of the terms.

Some of the poems he read were "We Need Philosophers for This?" which, he said, presumes that you've been reviewing your philosophy 101 text or have gone to Wikipedia. This poem had a tie to Chaffin's poem about the Vietnam War because this poem referenced Coppola's film, Apocolypse Now (one of the two films about that war that he believes are worth watching - the other is The Deer Hunter) in addition to Nietzsche, Emerson, Wagner, and Gilbert Roland. "Poverty" is the first poem in this collection and the second he read. It is, he said, about the spiritual poverty that may be the result of late capitalism.

Christopher spoke about the first rock star - Albert Einstein - before moving into the poem, "What Einstein Means to Me." The final line, "regardless of who is rolling the dice," relates to the Einstein quote Christopher related earlier, "God doesn't play dice with the universe."

Christopher blended stories and poetry and viewpoints seamlessly throughout his reading, moving from Einstein to Bush and Cheney and their idea to invest Social Security funds in the stock market. He said that maybe we should give everything to the guys on Wall Street and all the rest of us could get together and live in a hut. "Looking West from Montecito, Late Afternoon," was the final poem he read.

Both poets were gracious as they signed books and spoke with audience members. Three poets read at open mic.
Top photo shows C.E. Chaffin (blue shirt with red book) and Christopher Buckley (next to wall) signing books. Behind them are Sandra Senne, Mary Zeppa, and Susan Kelly-Dewitt.
Bottom photo shows C.E. Chaffin and Christopher Buckley listening as Tim introduced them.

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