Santa Fe, New Mexico is called The City Different and is aligned with my needs and personality as are few other places on this planet. It is one of the world’s largest art markets, at times topping all others except New York and London—no small boast for a city of 65,000. Painters, weavers, sculptors and jewelers converge upon this hub along with musicians and writers. Since moving here in 2004, my wife and I have seen such performers as Lyle Lovett and John McLaughlin. Had not one of his troupe died scant weeks before he was due to perform, we would have caught Mikail Baryshnikov. From mid to late summer, we have world class opera.
Two months ago, a new 150 seat venue opened less than ten minutes from my home. One of the first bills featured jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew, drummers John Trentacosta and Peter Amahl, saxophonists Arlen Asher and Glenn Kostur, pianist Chris Ishee and Justin Bransford on bass for a $10.00 admission. Jazz fans will drool.
Last Friday, for a few dollars more, we listened to jazz great Richie Cole, saxist of Manhattan Transfer fame (with over 3,000 compositions to his credit), keyboardist extraordinaire John Rangel, bassist-composer Chuck Metcalf and legendary percussionist Peter Amahl.
On a different note—no pun intended—last winter I became aware of a Monday night event called Poetica. Conducted at El Farol, a tappas restaurant at the top of Canyon Road where most of Santa Fe’s better galleries are located, Poetica is an opportunity for writers to read their poetry or chapters from their books to the public-at-large in a coffeehouse atmosphere. Not only were my own readings well-received, but it was there I met Poetica’s organizer, Paul White. Paul is a lover of the art form and, to the benefit of Santa Fe’s writing community, spends much of his time organizing similar readings at restaurants, cafés and other public places through a web-based event-hosting site called Meetup (http://www.meetup.com/Santa-Fe-Poetry-and-Prose-Meetup-Group/).
On Saturday night I attended one such event, this time in his home. The two featured poets were Wayne Lee, whose poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and Gregory Gutin, who has begun to receive local recognition.
The evening began with a pot luck dinner, for which I brought homemade dolmas. Mine, by the way, are not those oily little turds served in delicatessens (see photo). The grape leaves are stuffed with both rice and tiny cubes of lamb seasoned with lemon juice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. My grandmother’s recipe originates from a time before non-stick cookware, so the dolmas rest on a bed of chicken necks or wings in a large pot, are covered with a mix of whole tomatoes and tomato paste, then cooked over low heat. (Recipe available on request.)
The evening’s crowd consisted of some fine poets, local publishers, novices and poetry fans, perhaps thirty in all. The atmosphere, convivial and respectful. I haven’t experienced anything like it since the post-beatnik, pre-hippie era of the mid-sixties, but events like this are cropping up almost weekly in the City Different.