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Poets go exploring in an erotic terrain

One minute, the poet offered the harsh image of rape on a kitchen floor. A few minutes later, another poem, another image: a gentle garden seduction.

In between, there were moments of laughter, rage and passion.

That was the scene at the Still and Moving Gallery last night in Tampa, when six female poets presented their works in an erotic evening of poetry.

They called it The Present Tense of Longing, and it was the latest presentation by the gallery under the directorship of David Audet.

Audet, long known in Tampa for his avant garde productions, opened the gallery just over a year ago in the former Croce's Grocery Store in Sulphur Springs. The Present Tense of Longing was part of Audet's somewhat belated Valentine's presentation.

About 50 people came to hear the readings, and watch Linda Grimm, Gianna Russo, Phyllis McEwen-Taylor, Silvia Curbelo, Rhonda J. Nelson and Kathi Rudawsky use drama, music and even costume in their presentation.

"I usually come in with an outfit," Rudawsky said of her wrap of black lace with matching work boots. "It's the sensual woman on top, and working woman on the bottom."

But outfits aside, the women did a fine job of filling the room with their words.

Oh. And speaking of words, this was not an event for tender ears. The show lived up to its erotic billing with female-inspired images of love and lust. There were no taboos.

Despite that, the poets did not seem to offend those who gathered. Sometimes the audience laughed as the women read. Other times, the hush was so complete the hum of an air conditioner was the only noise.

The gallery is small and has a casual, insider feel, the kind that makes it easy to assume everyone knows everyone else there. But although poetry readings are done every five or six months, several of the people who came Friday said they were there for the first time.

University of South Florida student Nicole Rodriguez said she came because her poetry teacher, Russo, was among the women reading. Rodriguez also plans to use the presentation as the subject of a class assignment. And she writes a little poetry herself.

William Nunez, however, made it perfectly clear that no class was enough to get him to a poetry reading. What got him there was his girlfriend, Christi Maristany, 20.

"It's not my cup of tea," said Nunez, a 23-year-old business graduate student. "She (Maristany) did a little whining . . ..

"I'm hoping they'll thrill me."