Victoria sends in this spy report from Viggo Mortensen’s poetry reading.

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Just wanted to share that I was at the benefit poetry reading for Midnight Special that was held at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA last night. After a fun musical opening from John Condron, Viggo made a nice speech about the purpose of the benefit reading, and how it was to raise funds for the Midnight Special bookstore, which is closing and moving to a new location in Santa Monica. Then one of the Beyond Baroque staff members reminded him to tell the audience that the authors/poets would be signing books afterwards, and Viggo quipped that he knew he would “f**k it up” 😉

Later in the program, Viggo came back to do his set. He was very charming and funny; he was carrying with him a small stack of books and papers and made comments about how his stuff was a mess, that basically his poetry was disorganized as much of his life was. But he was saying it in such a way that the audience forgave him his bumbling and disorganization. He also made several comments during his poetry readings about his poetry being sad – which is true, as most of his writing is delicate, melancholic, and dreamlike. The audience lapped up his self-deprecation like milk, and laughed when it was appropriate because, let’s face it, Viggo is one charming man.

He opened with “Song”, a poem by Edward Hirsch – a curious choice as someone else had read the same exact poem earlier that night (so maybe Viggo wasn’t paying attention or just felt like repeating the poem – who knows?). Then he read some of his own poetry, like “Hillside” and “First Light” (as I think it was called (?) – he said he thought about it in NZ while he was driving, and he had to stop at the side of the road to finish writing the poem). Viggo then read some poetry from NZ poets – he commented that the one thing that surprised him about NZ (besides the fact that in NZ, people are genuinely nice and put the community first, the individual second) was that there were a lot of good poets in NZ. Then he read a poem in Spanish, which I didn’t understand, but it was lovely hearing him speak Spanish. Finally, he closed with Back To Babylon (which he also read at the Rally Against US Iraq Policy in October).

Later on that night, he stayed afterwards to sign copies of The Spoken Word Revolution (Slam, Hip Hop & the Poetry of a New Generation), which contains a few of his poems in the book and on the CD. We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the reading, and when it was my turn to get my book signed, the Beyond Baroque people said that from now on we couldn’t take pictures because it was taking too long (it was about 1:20 AM), so I wasn’t able to snap a close-up shot of him *sigh*

All in all, it was a really cool night. Seeing Viggo was just the icing on the cake, because the other performers were completely amazing.

Cheers, Victoria