A venerable Albuquerque performance event is finally of legal drinking age. For purely poetic reasons, Poetry and Beer has opted to celebrate its 21st birthday rather than last year's boring old 20th anniversary. That's anthropomorphizing things, but hey: Poets have license. Not that being underage ever hampered any imbibing or reciting in the past—with the exception of a few months without a venue in 2002, P&B has been going strong since it was founded in 1992. Truly, it qualifies as one of Albuquerque's literary institutions.
In the past, P&B has been an important destination for many touring poets. One of the great things about P&B is it isn't exclusive; poets and non-poets alike are welcomed—think ghetto salon. For this anniversary celebration, organizers Don McIver (who was once—and this is no mean feat—awarded the title of P&B's “drunkest host”) and Eric Bodwell (also a contender) are bringing home some Burque expats. Unfortunately, rather timid contributions to an Indiegogo fundraising campaign mean that not all the P&B diaspora will make it to the event. However, native New Mexican Jason Daniello will be flying in with his mellow rock-and-roll charms to assist singer/songwriter Kimo in providing the night's musical accompaniment.
Without question, the celebration's most notable appearance will be by the Bukowski of spoken word, Matthew John Conley, who returns to Albuquerque from Tucson for this one night stand. If you've never been in the same room as Conley, you haven't truly experienced what people mean when they say someone lights up a room. Conley is responsible for adding the slam component to the readings in the mid-'90s, which in turn spawned a local team that eventually hosted (and won) the National Slam Poetry Championships in 2005. Since 1995, according to McIver, “the normal flow is an open mic that anybody can read at, and then we have a feature, and then we finish off with a slam. Jason, obviously, will be the feature, and Matthew will participate in a special slam.” Count on the recently crowned ABQ slam champion Damien Flores as well as feminist poet Jessica Helen Lopez to make appearances at this reunion of sorts.
Usually held the first Wednesday of every month at Blackbird Buvette, P&B throws caution to the wind for their 21st birthday by holding this special anniversary show at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW). As Bodwell says, “Mostly we want to celebrate a show that has closed down bars and even burnt one down,” referring to the uncanny and deleterious effects on clubs—including the Golden West Saloon—that a departing Poetry and Beer seems to have. McIver jokingly adds, “It's a really bad idea for a bar to kick us out because basically every bar that has kicked us out has gone under afterward.” Jinxed bad luck charm or brilliant ferment of imagination and expression? Poets can have it both ways. Doors open at 8pm, and the cover for this spectacle is a mere ten clams.