Pulses raced, music flowed and words poured from mouths, baring the soul of each speaker as new creations and old poems were shared at the 24th installment of Burning Tale, a writing group and poetry reading at Santa Clara’s Studio Bongiorno on March 18.
Partially sponsored by Poetry Center of San Jose and hosted by “Mighty Mike” McGee, the monthly event had familiar faces sharing the stage with a featured performer, Vancouver, British Columbia’s Trev “Spillious” Spilchen, a transgender female who prefers the pronoun they over the gender-specific she.
“A lot of what I deal with,” said Spilchen, “is trying to figure out where my place is in the world. I also talk about the gender binary that we live under … It’s really easy to be angry about that and you can see some frustration in different parts of the writing, but I try to follow in the footsteps of my good friend RC Weslowski and always talk about hope. That’s one of my goals. Hey this is happening and it’s not so great, but it could be awesome and we have hope that it will get better and it will get easier and people will be more accepting and people will be more understanding and get it.”
In one poem, Spilchen spoke over strums on the guitar. “When I look in the mirror, I see a female shape and this is a reality I can never escape,” Spilchen said. “So when I see people and they just start laughing; when people openly scowl in disapproval; when I find myself paralyzed with fear standing outside the public restrooms just hoping I can get in and out without incident, I try to remember that I am loved. I made it this far and I am lucky.” To which the audience and Spilchen sang “you are loved,” eight times as a chorus.
Over and over, in nearly every piece, Spilchen recounted experiences growing up in hiding–being a star athlete on the football field and loving that, while wearing women’s clothing whenever the opportunity arose.
“I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe this back in 1986,” said Spilchen in another poem, “but I’m trans, so the more I was able to feel feminine, the more alive I felt … The most mundane thing you could possibly imagine became amazing when I was dressed as female.”
In addition to Spilchen’s performance, the evening included an open mic and celebrated the birthday of gallery owner Phil Bongiorno.
“I love the fact that people want to come down here and perform,” said McGee. “I think where we’re at now is a lot of people show up whether we remind them to or not. We get a decent crowd without much promotion. There’s a regularity and I think people feel this has become a home for the talking arts.”
Burning Tale will celebrate its two-year anniversary on Saturday, April 15 with a writing group from 6-8 p.m., followed by a potluck and open mic signups from 8-9 p.m. The Burning Tale: Chapter XXV poetry reading will begin at 9 p.m. A suggested $5 donation fee will be collected at the door.