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  • Writer's pictureTokyo Poetry Journal

ToPoJo Vol 13: Maladies, Calamities and Misfortunes Launched in August 2023

- words by Jeffrey Johnson, photos by Zoria Petkoska K.

Maybe it was the summer heat, maybe the end of school, the semester, or the beginning of Obon … Some readers didn’t show, the place was half-filled with regulars … doubt creeps in …

Then Marcellus Nealy kicked things off with panache and broke the heat (no ice to be found) and the first round of readers, Rachel Ferguson, Tatiana Sulovska, Zoria Petkoska K., and Joy Waller, read their poems from Vol 13, each had a calming effect on me. The heat was transformed into a warm welcome. Marcellus, the masterful MC and even better reader, raised the roof on the first third of Friday’s launch with a brilliant poem dedicated to George Floyd, followed by the lyrics to a song he composed, “Closer to You”. He was followed by Samm Bennett and Rob Moreau who provided mind blowing musical improvisation between the poetry reading sessions.

All misgivings and jitters had disappeared. This too, like all ToPoJo launches, was a welcoming, friendly, open and jubilant affair.

The second set of readers opened with a video of Sharanya B reading a poem about a boy who was lynched in her home state of India. Our own Jordan Smith then read from Richard Oyama’s poems. To close the second set yours truly read to brilliant musical accompaniment provided by Samm and Rob.

Our own Taylor Mignon MCed the open mic, the final part of the evening program. Stepping up to read were longtime ToPoJo friends and supporters Simon Scott, Endo Hitsuji, Miki Yuuri, Ryan Dzelskans, and first-timers at a ToPoJo event — Greg Snazz and Sy Huq. Even our guest musicians Samm and Rob shared their writing with us at the open mic.

A good number of participants lingered sipping Ol La Cabina's craft beer and eating their famed tacos until last trains started calling everyone home. It was a smaller more intimate crowd than some of our events have been, but a wonderful evening of poetry and music all the same.


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