CPS: Notes Toward a Report

A poet will read to an audience of one if necessary, and do so with thanks for the opportunity, but nothing beats the energy of a full house — we continue to be so grateful for such great attendance. Great poets, great audiences, etc. etc. etc..

Melody Gee has a sweet smile and conversational reading style.  The perfect amount of patter & prologue to her poems. The poems she read were all from her book, Each Crumbling House, and showed off her skill at varied voices and subjects. I introduced her, so I spent a lot of time with her book prior to her reading, time richly spent. Melody’s a 7 months pregnant, ebullient presence.

Jennifer Sweeney’s reading of “Today’s Lesson: Landscapes” from How to Live on Bread and Music I found particularly meaningful and relevant as the mother to at least one wildly imaginative child. It details an academy-minded art teacher’s instruction to a room of second-graders, and illustrates a common failing of well-meant adults: an almost compulsive need to direct a child’s creative process.

One of my favorite parts of the night was when Tricia introduced Jennifer. Tricia is a friend I met through SheWrites, who turns out to (kind of) live in my neighborhood of western Mass., and happens to be friends with Jennifer from a lifetime ago! All my galaxies colliding.

Barbara Ras‘s poems are capacious, intelligent, funny, great fun to read and and even more fun to have read to you. Her wit bolted warmly through the room, what a delight, the perfect closing note. Then I had the good fortune to talk shop with Barbara at dinner later (we went to a fab new place in town, the Blue Rock Restaurant, loved it!) — she directs Trinity University Press — I love discussing the book business anyway, and books especially. The night ended all too soon.

If you haven’t visited our website, maybe you don’t know: we’ve been compiling a video archive of the CPS readings, little by little. So if you’ve lamented having to miss any of our wonderful guests, check it out.

Next month we have Aracelis Girmay and Ross Gay — even though that will mean it’s December already (ACK!), I can’t wait!

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Couple posts back I talked about prose poems and mentioned one anthology; here’s another that’s been on my radar that I wanted to mention, too, especially as it’s described as “half critical study and half anthology” on the website. It’s The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice, edited by Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek. Looks comprehensive and eminently helpful, with a terrific cover to boot. I’ll order it from my library and let you know what I think.

Collected Poets Series, Jan. 2010.

Thursday, January 7, 2010, at 7:00 pm, poets Nancy Pearson and Afaa Michael Weaver will help the Collected Poets Series welcome the new year in a special benefit for the Green River House.

*Please note the time change.

The Green River House is a community-based rehabilitation and support program, provided through Clinical and Support Options (CSO), for mentally ill adults.  CSO’s mission is to provide responsive and effective interventions and services to support individuals adults, children and families in their quest for stability, growth and an enhanced quality of life.

For more information about the poets and to check out our schedule of upcoming events, please visit our website. Please come out if you can & show your support for this important program!

2 Days/2 Wildly Different Audiences.

Talking to a rugful of first-graders is a scary business. Keeping their interest, watching for signs of restlessness and disinterest, and then immediately switching course to lure back their attention…I think we chatted 25 minutes all told, but I was exhausted!

The teachers were endlessly patient and encouraging — the kids’ poems are hung all around the school, which I didn’t notice on my way in, and the kids kept getting side-tracked from our question & answer period in order to give me instructions on where I could find their particular poems, though I assured them that I would absolutely explore every floor of the school and read every poem.  One clever girl, after about the fifth time the teachers had gently assured them that their poems would be read, please no more, it’s time for questions only, raised her hand, and when called upon said, “I have two questions: first, you can find MY poem on the door down the hall…”  Nice try.

What creative children, though, and how wonderful to be in a writing workshop when you’re seven.  That day’s work involved brainstorming “the just-right title” for the poems they’d been working on.  One girl’s: “Let Me Blow Away”.  Who knows how many of theses kids will continue to write into their adulthood, but I think that such creative nurturing can’t help but inform the people they’ll become — future poetry book buyers at the very least!

@ the Green Street Poetry Series.

Interesting how much more nervous I was reading to that classroom than to the audience of adults at the Green Street Café the evening prior.

Not that I wasn’t nervous at all! There was a nice turnout, and the audience included a number of poets who had never heard me read before, which always gives the internal eternally insecure “please like me” beastie a kickstart.

But I’ve discovered that I deeply enjoy the act of reading my poems for an audience, the quiet listening we all do as I mine each line for its sounds and cadences.  And it’s so much more satisfying to participate in a featured reading, where you can read for 20 minutes or more, and really find your rhythm and ride it, than the open-mic quickie.  I’m glad I have more events on the horizon; only wish I had the time, and childcare funds, to do more!

Poems from the Women’s Movement: The Reading.

Wednesday night I went to a reading at Amherst College to celebrate the publication of the new Library of America anthology, Poems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore.  Quite a contingent of women collaborated to bring this event off, and what an electric evening it was!  Not only was Honor Moore in attendance — our Grande Dame kicked off the readings and then closed them with a bang — but five young women students also read poems from the anthology, and Joan Larkin as well, and, just in case that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins, Audre Lorde’s daughter, was on hand to read and regale us with anecdotes of her mother.

Audre Lorde notwithstanding, one of my favorite moments of the night was when one of the students, I think her name was Rachel Ruskin, read Susan Griffin’s poem, “An Answer to a Man’s Question, ‘What Can I Do About Women’s Liberation?'”.  Ruskin’s a natural reader, a natural performer; she navigated and mined the irony and pathos of this poem to great effect.

The sheer variety of poems and poets included in the anthology made for a very interesting evening.  And having these young women, this latest generation to benefit from the efforts of the women’s movement, do most of the reading gave the poems an extra charge, reminded us, if we needed the reminding, of their continuing relevance to our lives.