Brad Buchanan Reading at Luna’s Cafe
Every Thursday, Luna’s Cafe hosts a poetry open mic. This Thursday, Jason and I visited Luna’s to listen to CSUS Professor Brad Buchanan, who teaches my graduate seminar on Joseph Conrad/Graham Greene.
Every teacher has weird idiosyncrasies. Brad Buchanan has a few–it must be the writer in him. The first thing you notice about Buchanan when he comes into class is 1) he’s wearing a collared shirt and sports coat, and 2) he’s hauling around a box or paper bag filled with student journals he’s been grading. He hands out the journals and takes his seat. Then, he pulls out a stack of index cards highlighting notes on the reading.
He spreads out all the index cards in front of him, like a kid playing Memory. I’m not sure if he’s trying to remember or organize his thoughts, or if to him, lit criticism is a game. It’s a little bizarre, but strangely endearing. Each class, he goes from index card to index card, making points on the reading. By the end of class, each index card, has been filed away, all points made.
Lately, Buchanan has done a few readings in the Sacramento area, but he never publicizes them in class. I just get the information from the CSUS English Department list proc.
It’s Thursday night. Every college student knows that Thursday is the new Friday, and I’m no different. TGITR, as I like to say. TR = Thursday in student speak! As Jason and I drive downtown, I’m shuffling around in the passenger seat, fixing my hair, remembering the last time I went to Luna’s Cafe with Lucy. I haven’t seen Lucy forever. I make a vow to call her, or at least message her on facebook–I’m a member of the facebook group she created: SSHEN (Sac States’s Hottest English Nerds.)
Our first stop is at Uncle Vito’s Slice of NY. I can’t seem to get enough of the pizza. I try to eat fast, because last time, Luna’s was so packed that Lucy and I had to stand in the back by the bar. But hen we get there, the place is almost empty.
There’s a family of three laughing at one of the round tables, and a guy wearing a bandanna sits by himself reading a really thick book. I’m impressed until he flips it face down onto the table and I see the cover–Twilight. Of course–the darker, goth Harry Potter. I laugh a little, and wonder if I’ll ever get around to reading the vampire series. I’m terrified of vampires, so maybe never. In the back, a middle aged man in a suit hunches over the bar, writing in his notebook. His beat up leather briefcase tells me, “I, too, have a personality and a soul.”
As more poets arrive, many wearing hats and scarves, bandannas, accessories, dark clothing, I contemplate my own beige cardigan and jeans and acknowledge the necessity to cultivate a more beatnik writer persona.
Buchanan arrives hefting in a box, and for a moment, I’m convinced he’s brought our in-class journals to the reading. That’s when I realize the box probably contains copies of his new book, “Swimming the Mirror,” which was published by his new house Roan Press.
Buchanan pauses as he passes our table, surprised to see me there. (Nothing can stop me from providing news to our voracious readers–all three of them). I introduce him to Jason and they shake hands. He says “Thanks for coming,” and moves on, no doubt mentally preparing himself for his reading.
The night begins with a poetry open mic and a woman named Rebbecca emcees. She announces that all poets are limited to reading one poem each. I’m relieved because there are 20 poets on the roster, and last time, each had about five minutes.
I didn’t bring anything to read. I’ve said it before–I’m an awful poet.
In between readings, Rebbecca announces Sacramento literary events, including one this weekend with percussionist Michael Bayard, who will be playing the “Typewriter” song on a real Royal manual typewriter during Second Saturday. I can’t think of a better way of cultivating writer chic than becoming a patron of typewriter music.
The first two poems Buchanan reads are, “On the Day I Became an American Citizen” and “Acceptance Speech.” He wrote the poems only two days ago, after the election. He also reads the following poems:
- “A Photograph from Northern Iraq”
- “She Claims that the Flag is Flying Away”
- “The Father’s Shore” – based on the neonatal portion of his wife’s pregnancy, when she was in San Juan Capistrano and he was in San Francisco.
- “Ethereal Child”
- “The Bubble Gum Baby” – his daughter’s favorite
- “Her First News of Eyelashes”
- “She Catches the Wind”
My favorite was “Ethereal Child,” though “The Bubble Gum Baby” came in a close second.
What I learned about Buchanan: 1. He’s Canadian. 2. He knows how to capture the magic of eyelashes.
What I wonder about Buchanan: Does his doppleganger teach my Conrad/Greene class or is this really the same guy?–I guess that just goes to show–you never know anything about a person until you hear their poetry, or at least see them in a tee-shirt.
Click on the collage to check out pictures of the night.
Note: Shot a couple videos of his reading, but am struggling with the upload.