Friday, October 12, 2007

Returning to Texas

First posted 5 August 2007

No I don't mean geographically. If only! I nourish dreams of getting back there in 2009, but meanwhile I would like to finish recording here my wonderful experiences in 2006.

"Everyone is very good to me. Don't worry," I emailed Andrew on my third day there. I look back now and am amazed at how very well people treated me. For instance everyone insisted on driving me all over the place instead of letting me get cabs – which I was quite prepared to do, but no-one would hear of it. In that and many ways the hospitality was extraordinary.
I left off my account with English poet Rupert Hopkins and me about to appear as featured readers at an Italian café called Vinny's. The poetry performances were on a verandah area where we could dine and listen. Neil and Dorsey drove me there and Patricia Fiske joined us for dinner.

Neil and Dorsey at Vinny's

I couldn't eat much, too nervous before the performance. I ended up sitting with Rupert at a different table from the rest of our party, because we had our piles of books to sell, and our tip jars for people to give us donations if they liked our work. I ordered a small plate of something, and a drink, thinking to pay for it myself, but I didn't get away with that. Neil was watching and made sure the waiter put it on his bill.

The poetry hostess at Vinny's was Kathleen Romana, poet and artist, with whom I'd had some email correspondence while I was still in Australia. She turned out to be a beautiful blonde with very long hair, who loved retro dressing. At last, someone with a gown comparable to mine, but hers was black lace. "How beautiful you look!" we told each other in delight.

Rupert and Kathleen

Kathleen performed delicate, mystical poetry to a background of two musicians weaving melodious improvisations softly around her words. That would have been impossible with my more animated pieces, and when I began my set they sat silent a while; but then I did a quieter one and they chimed in. I did a few more quiet, lyrical pieces so they could continue. It was a lovely experience to recite to music like that.

It was at Vinny's that I first encountered Jazz, in the open section. I didn't know him by that name then. When he approached the stage, a big, serious-looking young man in a striking black and white Thelonius Monk T-shirt, everyone was chanting, "Jason! Jason!" I found out later he is also a DJ and "Jazz One" (or Jazz 1) is his DJ name – which by now everyone calls him. He performed from memory a sombre but brilliant poem with a lot of repetition, "I'm in love with the cutter," i. e. a girl who self-mutilates. I was stunned. I'd never heard anything like it. I joined enthusiastically in the loud applause.
Patricia Fiske told a funny story instead of a poem, and wowed everyone I was beginning to realise that Patricia, who loved theatre, was always one of the star turns on any occasion. Later she talked to me about her interest in blending various components in art, e.g. poetry with music and dance.
Rupert and I said goodbye, as I was off to Kerrville for eight days and he was going to New York and then home to England. I spontaneously hugged him, which I think was a little unexpected but he did his best to respond despite English reserve.

"Texans of course," I wrote to Andrew, "give even better bear hugs than Aussies."


  1. Ah ha, so you met fellow 'Bristolian' poet Rupert. Rupert is almost an honourary Texan! ;-)

    Did you ever meet up with Mark Brooks, haiku poet who relocated to Austin?

    all my best,


  2. I don't recall meeting Mark. But it was Festival time; no doubt he was around! There were so many poets there during Festival week (the subject of some future blogs here, when I catch up again) that it was impossible for us all to connect with each other.