I kept meaning to, but I never made it to a reading in James McGrath's orchard. Since New Mexico Literary Arts, the board of which I have been president for many a year, has given James a Poetry Gratitude Award, and celebrated last week at my house. There were 24 people here, including five from Taos because SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest) had gotten the other award. We had Santa Fe, Albuquerque, El Rito, La Cieneguiella, Chimayo, Taos, and La Puebla all represented.
James was so sweet and so happy, I decided to go hear him read, along with Catherine Ferguson and Katherine Seluga, two friends whose work I admire heartily. Here is the watercolor by Catherine Ferguson that appeared on the invitation card:
I was still recovering from the Super Duper Moon and an even more super duper duper sleepover with my Granddaughter, Kaylee. But I wended my way to James' orchard and never looked back. There were over 60 people there, I know because I count. James has hosted dozens of Orchard Readings. He has a shed for the chairs and a sheltered and bowered space for the reading, plus snacks, plus a gathering of the lovely poetry crowd, middle school daughter of Katherine to canes in the crowd. A plethora of years. White hair never looked better than in this light, under these trees. I had a lovely day, can report back to the NMLA Board that we indeed bestowed the honor on the right fellow. Mid 80's never looked so good or wrote so well as it does on James. His writing seemed to blend into the natural world. He not only wrote about that world, he enlivened it by his scene.
I don't have a photo, but there were all these lovers of poetry, in friendship, tucked in under the trees, with the hummers flitting, the words formal and just-springing, a total hour of delight. As soon as it was over, people didn't linger, though I did. James' guest bathroom is floor to ceiling poetry books and literary magazines. There were only two extra cars in the lot by the time I left, careful not to mow down the solar collectors. There is more to say, but I'll let the wind say it.
In my very first appearance as PL I spoke of the many venues for readings, and mentioned orchards. It was the least I could do to visit as many of these venues as I could in these two years. I went to Warehouse 21, Church of Beethoven, Lannan, Poetry at Paul's, The Outpost in ABQ for the Youth Slam Finals, Collected Works too many times to count, and that is just to name a few.
James is off to Ireland in two weeks, his annual jaunt. I feel that after knowing him for at least twenty years he has come more and more into focus. Check out the orchard readings, newcomers, and check out the work of all three of these fine poets.