It just wasn’t fitting for such an event to end with the Zoom window closing. More fitting would have been a standing ovation before reflecting in a dim lobby while eating scones. Instead, I closed my laptop, left alone to contemplate the words of visiting poets Tess Taylor and Julia Guez, who joined the three hosts of The Poet Salon podcast, Gabrielle Bates, Luther Hughes, and Dujie Tahat. The event was described on the Hugo House website as “a celebration of all things verse.” It truly lived up to that.
Gabrielle Bates, who started, showed us the immersive side of verse. She admitted to us that she was quite nervous, as it was her first virtual reading. Often I assume that professional writers are comfortable with vulnerability, so I appreciated her candor. Bates’ openness set the stage for a genuine atmosphere where she delved into spooky fall feels. The first poem she read was entitled “How Judas Died.” Her voice softened and she won us over with her haunting imagery. She continued with “Conversation with Mary,” where she tells us of a nightmare in which she was impregnated by God. Her language was so certain, I was itching to have the lines in front of me to re-read and explore. During her reading of her poem “Pre-Elegy for Dad,” in response to the line “He is my mother,” the Zoom chat was flooded with awed remarks. She finished with “The Mentor.” My favorite line from this poem was “keeping language close to my mouth,” which evoked thoughts of a certain tug-of-war between speaking and voice. Her surreal images and thought-provoking lines threw me right into the deep end, where I would stay for the entire evening. Gabrielle Bates reading at Spotlight Poetry hosted by the Hugo House. Photo courtesy of Hugo House.