Not all poetry readings compare to the now-famous October 1955 unveiling of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Neal Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder, among others, were in attendance. The crowd has been described as exuberant, with Kerouac hollering out “Go! Go!” the same way he’d encourage a saxophonist. Cassady reportedly passed a hat for the writers, and jugs of wine were passed as well. That moment transcended Beat history to become larger than life.
Now we don’t think that every poetry reading or even the majority need to be boisterous, wine-sloshed affairs (though that can be fun too). But we do like it when poetry readings are larger than life. City of Santa Fe poet laureate Jon Davis’ Dec. 15 event at the Institute of American Indian Arts was a more solemn, meditative reading than the “Howl” affair, though there was some exuberance involved. The event was the second in Davis’ series of six readings by six poets. It was a mostly quiet, reverent look into others’ lives, aired in unexpected terms.