Poetic License; Instructor shares his words with the world

By Jonathan Baca, Copy Editor

Don McIver under­stands the power of words, and as a part-time SAGE and English instructor as well as a Learning Center Supervisor, he shares his love of language with his students.

In his free time, he has been a vital part of Albuquerque’s poetry scene, as an award winning poet, editor, host and member of the Albuquerque slam poetry team, and on top of all that he is a host and producer of KUNM’s Spoken Word Hour.

“People still need to express themselves. If it’s about recreating or process­ing your lived experience, and sharing your words and your perspective, then poetry is extremely healthy and a great thing,” McIver said.

McIver has been pub­lished in several anthologies, and has published several books of his poetry, includ­ing The Noisy Pen. He was also the editor of A Bigger Boat: The Unlikely Success of the Albuquerque Poetry Slam Scene, a book that chronicles the rise of the slam poetry scene in Burque; a scene that has given birth to a few national slam champions.

In 2005, Albuquerque hosted the National Poetry Slam, and McIver said he helped to organize the event.

Albuquerque’s team won first place that year, beating 74 other teams consisting of 350 poets, he said.

“It was a lot of fun,” McIver said.

Slam poetry is a very energetic, performance-based form of poetry that started in Chicago in the 80’s, as a response to the dull, some­times self-indulgent poetry readings that were going on at the time, McIver said.

At slam events, poets are given scores by members of the audience, and at the end of the night, a winner is declared, something that never existed in poetry before, he said.

“I think the difference is that slam poetry, or per­formance poetry, is meant to be heard. It’s designed to be listened to. Other poetry, you may read it out loud, but really it exists on the page,” McIver said.

Traditional poetry can be better suited to writing poems with multiple inter­pretations and complex meanings, and can therefore be harder to grasp when read out loud.

Slam poetry, on the other hand, is typically sim­pler, with strong messages that can be expressed more directly to an audience.

“They can certainly wres­tle with complex issues, but if the audience doesn’t walk away with something they are going to be lost,” McIver said.

When McIver arrived in Albuquerque in the late 90s, there was already a vibrant slam scene, he said. Before that, McIver said he had drifted away from reading his poetry to audiences.

“I was writing but I didn’t have any way to share it. I didn’t really know what to do with it,” he said.

McIver quickly joined the poetry community here, doing readings at Winning’s Coffee, Poetry and Beer events, and eventually host­ing regular events at the now closed Blue Dragon Coffee House, he said.

“I had never been an actor, never got up on stage or performed before, so I had to kind of learn it myself,” McIver said.

In 2002, McIver helped form that year’s ABQ Slam Team, and went on to compete at the national level, he said.

“When I started doing slams, I wanted to be the rock star poet. I wanted to read in front of really huge audiences,” McIver said.

Albuquerque’s slam teams have since gone on to place highly at several national events, and many local poets are now recognized around the country, according to dukecityfix.com.

Being part of a com­munity of writers is impor­tant, McIver said, because the inspiration, feedback and encouragement one gets as part of a community can make a big difference in whether a poet sticks with it or gives up.

“What I learned is that it is much easier to be a writer when you are part of a com­munity,” McIver said.

Since then, McIver has had his poems published in sev­eral anthologies and all over the internet, and he continues to write poetry and essays, he said.

He has also written several novels, but none were ever published, which he said was dis­couraging at the time.

“I almost wanted to give up at that point and say ‘maybe I’m just not a writer.’ But it just doesn’t go away,” McIver said.

McIver said his atti­tude about getting his work published has changed a lot since he was younger, and that today he really writes for himself and for the community of local writers that he is a part of.

Since he began teaching here in 2009, he has found a new calling, sharing his pas­sion for language with his stu­dents, he said.

“For me, I like my job here at CNM, and I like teach­ing. I like getting my work out there, but I don’t need it to pay my bills,” McIver said.

For more information about Don McIver, and to read more of his poems, visit his website at donmciver. blogspot.com, called Confessions of a Human Nerve Ending.


Watermelon Man

By Don McIver

Herbie Hancock said he lifted the rhythm from listening,

listening to the rick­ety wheels on the watermelon carts

on the hot summer streets of Chicago.

I’ll take his word for it

and say it became the soundtrack to a late summer morn­ing dancing session.

Coffee cup in hand, the nip, finally, of Fall in the air.

A fridge full of home­made salsa, tomatoes plucked the day before.

The one lone pepper still clings from the plant as it did back in June.

We assume it is danc­ing too–and why wouldn’t it?

Early morning Hancock makes the long, hot summer disappear,

the tomatoes ripen,

and fresh basil swing and snap.

Everything goes better with coffee and jazz,

and summer’s over in New Mexico.

Coffees flow, movies show at Fans of Film Café

 By Jonathan Baca, Copy Editor | Photos by Jonathan Baca

The mural on the south wall, painted by Corina Sugarman.
The mural on the south wall, painted by Corina Sugarman.
Owner Michael Palombo behind counter at Fans of Film Café.
Owner Michael Palombo behind counter at Fans of Film Café.

Fans of Film Café is a unique blend of good coffee, home cooked food, community spirit and a love of independent film, and it just happens to be right in CNM’s backyard, said owner and manager Michael Palombo.

Located a stone’s throw from Main campus at 504 Yale Blvd. SE, Fans of Film has a distinctive mission: to spread and support the local indepen­dent film scene, and to bring high quality coffee and food to the south Yale neighborhood, an area with a lack of local food options within walking distance, Palombo said.

“I think Fans of Film can not only add to the coffee culture, but it can hopefully add to the film culture as well. We need more small media spaces for filmmakers and art­ists to express them­selves,” Palombo said. Fans of Film serves an original blend of coffee sourced from local roaster Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters, and their grab-and-go break­fast burritos available at their drive-up window have become very pop­ular among students who are in a rush in the morning and prefer homemade food to the cafeteria fare available on campus, he said.

“The repeat clientele has been really good, and we continue to build on that customer base. Each month has gotten a little better,” Palombo said.

As part of their larger mission, Fans of Film caters to the local film scene, spreading awareness and sup­port of small filmmak­ers with their website and popular Twitter account, Twitter.com/ fansoffilm, which is approaching 40,000 followers, he said.

The café also has a six foot projec­tion screen, where Palombo said he screens indie films, documentaries and videos related to social change and activism throughout the day.

“This environ­ment allows us to dis­tribute and share con­tent. We’re very much activists around here,” Palombo said.

M o n i c a Palombo, Michael’s wife and the café’s barista, said that they take pride in offering a cozy place where cus­tomers can feel at home.

“We’re like a big family. It’s very comfort­able here, we’re not stuffy. It’s a place you can come and do your homework or hang out with your friends, come to watch a movie. You don’t feel an obligation to just get in and out, you can hang out here,” she said.

Palombo said the idea to combine coffee and film in a local café was inspired in part by the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a chain of movie theaters that started in Austin, Texas, and serve beer and dinner along with their films.

The idea of mixing movies and beer has caught on across the country, but Palombo said he wanted to mix it up a little with his café.

A lot of people don’t like alcohol, and coffee and film go well together. No question about that,” Palombo said.

Local filmmakers are always welcome at Fans of Film, and Palombo said he encourages them to hold production meetings, screenings and even cast­ing calls at his café.

The café can also be rented out after hours by film crews to hold special events and premieres for the low price of $10 an hour, with full catering and bar service available, he said.

Other groups are welcome too, no matter what the cause or event; Palombo said he is happy to host art shows, lectures, concerts or private parties.

“We are set up to do PowerPoint presenta­tions, video demonstra­tions, anything you need,” Palombo said.

It is all about sup­porting and being a part of a community of like-minded individu­als, he said.

Fans of Film was a regular meeting spot for the Albuquerque Occupy Wall Street movement, and no matter what the cause, Palombo said he loves to support groups who are working for posi­tive social and politi­cal change.

“Everything I do is toward social change and social awareness. I feel like what I am doing here can really be a part of real change,” Palombo said.

In that spirit, Palombo said that start­ing in May, Fans of Film, in partnership with the New Mexico Farmers Association, will be hosting a farmer’s market every Sunday, with bands, poetry readings, and local arti­sans and vendors set up in the parking lot.

The farmer’s market is part of a larger effort by a group that Palombo created, A South Yale Business and Community Development Project, which aims to foster and support economic and community develop­ment in a neighborhood that was once plagued by crime and decay, he said.

“There was such a dark cloud over this neigh­borhood. It was a rough, rough corner. I believe the community has come a long way in the last year,” Palombo said.

In addition to coffee and food, Fans of Film has a used book store, PeaceWise Book Stall, in the front of the café, spe­cializing in books about film, progressive causes, and spirituality, he said.

Palombo is also a painter and glass blower, and he sells his paintings, pipes and art glass out of the café.

Part of the appeal of Fans of Film is the cozy, laid back atmosphere that Palombo has created. He said he is not interested in spending lots of money on fancy furniture and deco­rations, and he has been able to pass the savings on to his customers.

“It’s obvious I haven’t put a ton of money into it, but it’s clean, it’s homey, it’s eclectic. It doesn’t have to be perfect for us to make quality coffee and quality food at a decent price,” Palombo said.

In the future, Palombo said he hopes to eventually begin roasting his own coffee on site, and hopes to brand it and sell it to retailers, film produc­tion companies and stu­dios, carrying the Fans of Film brand to the masses.