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Sassy and Brassy: Sunset Poet Trish Dugger Lights Up An Afternoon

April 22, 2013

Spent Sunday afternoon at Vista Library, dropping in on the Sunset Poets’ mostly monthly get-together to hear featured poets Trish Dugger and Jon Wesick. I’ve been associated in one way or another with the Sunset Poets and their ringmaster, Dick Eiden, for about six years.

Five years ago, I was featured poet along with Maggi DeRosa, a pre-reading of my new collection (at that time), “The River Fed Stone,” that will forever be emblazoned in my heart. It happened the week before my mother died, and she fought through her poor condition to be there – the only time she saw me read live. Among the poems I read was “Riding the Wind,” about my grandmother’s “visitation” to my grief-stricken mother three months after her own death. It was my way of letting my Mom know she would be OK, and so would we.

The Sunset Poets also hosted two launch events for The Hummingbird Review, which I edit. The first, in October 2010, featured “Dances With Wolves” author Michael Blake, musician-poet John Doe of the legendary LA group X, my college professor and one of America’s haiku treasures, Don Eulert, Maggi DeRosa, and Alwyn Pinnow. Then, six months later, we reconvened for, essentially, a reading of “Harry’s Group,” named for Solana Beach poet Harry Griswold, whose workshop has produced poets and poems for almost 20 years.

On Sunday, it was Trish’s turn. She  is one of my all-time local favorites. She’s the Poet Laureate of Encinitas, a sassy, brassy 80-something woman who brings it, to use a sports term. She’s been featured in the newsletter of Ted Kooser, the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2004-2005, and countless anthologies. Her poems are funny, poignant, suggestive, gracious, colorful and pleasing to the imagination all at once. She was on hand to read from her new collection, Scrambled, and regaled us with a 25-minute reading of such poems as “Blonde in a Convertible,” “Frog Festival,” “My Sister Comes to Visit”, “Tea Party,” and the hilarious and loving, “Night of the Grunion.” If you’ve gone grunion hunting in Southern California, you know that you’re in for a slippery, wet night of flopping over yourself to try to catch finger-sized fish as they spawn on the beaches. Well, Trish brought out all the madness of that moment – and the passion that can ensue when you hunt them with a lover.

Trish is not only a poet, but a spoken word artist (there is a difference; it’s all in the delivery), so we received not only a reading of some of the poems, but a performance. As long as I’m editing literary anthologies, she will have a place to park her poems.

Jon Wesick opened the reading with selections from his newest chapbook, Plan 9 from San Diego. Jon’s poetry is very descriptive, even technical in places (he is a systems engineer by trade), but like the good poet he is, he connects it personally and in the heart. A few of my favorites from his reading were “Foreign Languages,” “Theory of Meaning,” “Dilettante of Zen,” and the sublimely titled, “Dear as Divine Breath.” He also brought out some of his other work, including a wonderful piece, “Mouths of Wood,” in which he ruminates on typical household objects. One of those “making the ordinary extraordinary” moments.

After the features, about ten people shared their works in the open mic. I brought in a couple of new poems, one of which has really hit home this past week: “The Morning After: The Way It’s Supposed to Feel,” about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. The other, “The Price You Pay for Being a Film Addict,” is included in the newly released Spring 2013 edition of The Hummingbird Review.

What a perfect way to close a weekend that began with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Such is the life of writing – a different expression for every day.

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