“Unsung Holiday” poet laureate event at Euphrat

Alena Naiden, Staff Writer

Artists and listeners gathered in the cool hall of the Euphrat Museum of Art on Nov. 13 for a poetry reading and open mic night.

Jennifer Swanton Brown, Cupertino Poet Laureate, hosted the reading and opened it with a poem dedicated to her father, “Hold What He Made.” Two featured artists and 10 guests also performed.

The event, the third in a series titled “Unsung Holiday,” addressed Chaos Never Dies Day and the chaos that exists in creativity.

Brown introduced David Perez, the Poet Laureate of Santa Clara, who was voted “Best Author in the Bay” by the San Francico Bay Guardian in 2012.

Inspired by Brown’s piece, Perez read a poem with a family theme in which he spoke warmly about his mother.

Perez’s performance was followed by another featured artist, Kim Johnson, the 2013 grand prize winner in the adult category for the Library Foundation Silicon Valley Reads poetry contest.

Johnson attended De Anza classes while still in high school and said this is where her poetry journey started.

A high school teacher encouraged Johnson to focus on the poetry and her love for metaphors, and after attending the first poetry slam in her life, Johnson was moved by the spoken word.

“It’s nice to be back here after all these years,” she said.

Johnson started her poem by addressing stage fright and her “constant battle with it.” Johnson said that in the past, she was terrified to perform and that feeling has never gone away.

“But there is something about the fear that really drives the work, drives the performance,” she said.

The poem started with a joke about how to fight stage fright: “I was told it is relatively painless if you picture the audience naked … and I think you all look amazing.” The audience members accepted the unexpected compliment and laughed out loud.

Johnson finished her poem with a touching phrase that mesmerized the audience: “When the curtain goes up, I hope that I can unzip my stomach and release all my butterflies into the audience.”

The rest of her reading was no less emotional and involving, as she looked directly into the eyes of people in the audience, skillfully manipulated the volume of her voice and smiled sincerely and openly.

“Both of them were such big voices!” said Adrian Kolb, Cupertino library commissioner, about Johnson and Perez. “They were just great performers, and I think they captivated the audience.”

After the featured artists’ performance, an open mic started, and 10 people used it as a chance to fight their own stage fright. These performers — and the audience in general — were mainly older than college age, but the topics they brought, philosophical, personal or sexual were ageless.

Erica Goss, current Poet Laureate for Los Gatos, a good friend of other poet laureates at the event, said the three of them spend a lot of time together, planning interesting poetry reading for the public.

Many others who attended the event knew each other. After the reading, almost everyone stayed to talk to the artists, to ask when the next performance will be.