Mills College took center stage on the final day of Homo A Gogo, a queer-focused music and arts festival held in San Francisco Aug. 13-16.
This year the event, which originated in Olympia, Wa. in 2002, presented a whopping 42 musical acts, 60 films, 15 spoken word performers and 27 visual artists, all of whom fit into the event’s “queer-centric” vision.
With two current Mills students, a visiting professor, and an MFA program alumna, the spoken word portion of the event at community center SOMArts was a veritable Mills marathon — a fact not lost on Homo A Gogo founder and emcee Ed Varga. “It’s like a whole Mills set going on!” he said.
All four performers took turns standing on stage, basking in the dim, red light of the projected backdrop and reading their pieces to a relaxed audience, many of whom – as emcee Varga pointed out – were hung-over from the prior night’s events.
Mills sophomore Anna Basalaev-Binder opened the show with her piece entitled “The Storm,” about a woman whose girlfriend cheats on her. The piece, written for visiting professor Michelle Tea’s beginning fiction workshop this past spring, wove back and forth between the past and the present, using New Jersey’s winding highways as its setting.
Junior Cat Snell, also a beginning fiction student, read her piece “Fingterips,” which was well received by the audience for its frank portrayal of a passionate student-teacher affair.
Basalaev-Binder and Snell were asked to read their stories at the event by Tea herself, who is a celebrated Homo A Gogo veteran.
“I know I at least was flattered as hell but also terrified,” Basalaev-Binder said.
“I immediately said I would do it, though,” she said, because she felt honored to read alongside the other performers, including Snell and San Francisco poet Daphne Gottlieb.
Gottlieb, who received her Masters in Fine Arts from Mills in 2001, read three poems from one of her many published works. She knew she would be the only poet reading that day, so she chose her pieces carefully.
“I wanted them to be easily accessible but still be somewhat evocative and elusive, since that’s what poetry does so well… and with a political undertone and social consciousness,” she said.
Her final poem, “Death Drive,” was written when she was a teaching assistant for associate professor Kristen Saxton, who works in the English department. As the two collaborated on a unit about women murderers, Gottlieb began collecting first-person accounts from women who have killed. In Death Drive, she pasted together the words of these women, creating a verbal patchwork of their testimonials.
Homo A Gogo will continue to call San Francisco home, and if the eager crowds were any indication, the festival will be welcomed with open arms. Since Homo A Gogo mainly survives on donations, supporters are encouraged to join their T-shirt of the Month Club, where members can buy limited edition shirts featuring the work of a new artist every month. Membership costs $25 dollars a month, or $60 quarterly.