East of Edith Injected with Mirabai

Last night, actually only five hours ago, we had another moving open mic with about eight readers–including Priscilla Candelaria, Aaron Greenwood, Teresa Gallion, Bob Warren, D. Coy, Rich Boucher, Bill Nevins and myself. (My dog, Uhthoff, who I had hoped would be able to co-host with me couldn’t decide whether to growl or wag his tail so he got to stay in the office.) Everyone was spot-on. A wide array of subjects, a nice undercurrent of the world and spirit, language play and story, a good night all round. And to boot, Rich satirized Shakespeare, Aaron offered up a Lorca poem along with his own work, Bill assisted Bob in a duet, and instead of letting myself babble too much between poets, I hosted by interjecting short poems by Mirabai between readers.

Mirabai, if you’re unfamiliar, was a princess in 16th century India who wrote love songs to Krishna…. “At age 13 or 18 (sources vary), Mirabai was married to a Ranjputi prince of Mewar. Her husband died only a few years later. His family was shocked that, first, she did not commit sati, burning herself alive on her husband’s funeral pyre, as was considered proper for a Rajputi princess (rani). Then they expected her to remain secluded as a widow, and to worship his family’s deity, the goddess Durga or Kali. Instead of following these traditional norms for a widowed Rajputi princess, Mirabai took up enthusiastic worship of Krishna as part of the Bhakti movement. She identified herself as the spouse of Krishna. Like many in the Bhakti movement, she ignored gender, class, caste, and religious boundaries, and spent time caring for the poor…. Mirabai’s songs express her love and devotion to Krishna, almost always as Krishna’s wife. The songs speak of both the joy and the pain of love.” [ To read more of her bio and find this reference I quote, click this link. You can read some of her poems here.]

I like Mirabai.

And to be blunt, I’m liking East of Edith.

For me, the opportunity to read and listen each week is inspiring. Not only do I get to check out and enjoy, ponder and mull,  be moved by or even provoked by what other people are feeling and writing about, but I get motivated. So far, as is the same for a number of poets, I’ve had new work to share each week—even if it’s raw.

And that matters.

I like having a thoughtful group of committed writers to share work with each week. AND A THOUGHTFUL GROUP OF JUST-LISTENERS 🙂 It’s fun. It’s heartening. It makes me remember what I love about poetry—-and it’s a kick in the duff. The day before the reading, I wrote and wrote and wrote draft after draft, and then the day of the open mic I spent hours editing.

This is good.

Since February, I have been between books, writing random poems. Then, at an AMP Johnny Clegg concert on Saturday, a concert which I found riveting and emotional, I heard a single line in a song that resonated with me: I was moved to write it down. It turned out I misheard (or imagined) the line–it was a variation of what Johnny Clegg said–but I heard what I needed to hear in the context of my life. Now, I’m four pages into a new series, which I hope will be a book-length long poem…We’ll see how that shapes up.

And that’s part of the boon of  a weekly open mic.

We’ll get to see how everyone’s poetry “shapes up” and progresses over the year, what we do with our writing, how we find the directions that move us personally….


(East of Edith is an open mic that takes place on Mondays at the Projects, 3614 High Street NE at 7pm)