Bloomington Arts Fair, Writers Guild Spoken Word Stage Highlight Labor Day Weekend

From the essay on poetry I mentioned writing two posts below:  . . . when I was much younger, poets sometimes read poems with jazz in the background.  A muted piano, stand-up bass, a drummer for accents with cymbals and brush, an alto sax, maybe, while the poet recited the words over it, not as lyrics, but for their own sake, the musicians having the job to make sure their own sounds worked with them.  So Saturday showed the art may not be lost completely.  Saturday I had other work downtown as well (well, on Sunday too) but, when I had a chance, I kept coming back to the Spoken Word Stage.  And one half hour slot had been taken by a group called “Shakespeare’s Monkey,” billed as a “poetry band,” and, yes, there was a poet reading and accompanied by music.  The mix was different — two guitars and percussion, the last sometimes switching off to kazoo-like muted horn sounds, even “echos” of parts of one poem’s words, the modes were different, traditional jazz-like 14199337_1082145731841259_7460941992285364875_nfor one poem about “surrealism,” more strictly rhythmic for a poem that had come before, but the principle was the same, and the sound of the poems with musicians sharing them was delightful.

The event is Bloomington’s annual Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts (to give it its full, official name), with artists’ booths up and down 4th Street and parts of the cross streets, drawing in artists across the Midwest and beyond.  In conjunction with this, the Spoken Word Stage is co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild, taking up Dunn Street south of 4th, with an information and “Poetry on Demand” booth (the latter where people can have personal poems written for them by Guild members, in exchange for hoped for donations) as well as the stage.  And, while most of Saturday’s readers were poets, there was a children’s theater and, later, a radio theater group too.  As well, of the poets, both the present and a past Indiana Poet Laureate.

Sunday, by contrast, brought fiction too, two slots billed as “fiction,” three “storytelling,” and one “horror fiction.”  Guess which one was mine!  These in all cases were half-hour readings, with eight more (one billed as including “personal essay”) taken up by poets.  Mine was relatively late in the day, from 3:30 to 4 p.m., out of prime time but not so late that, on a beautiful sunny day, people would have been leaving already.  The piece I read was a story called “Raising the Dead,” originally published in AIRSHIPS & AUTOMATONS (White Cat Publications, 2015 — cf. May 27 2015, et al.) and to be in the final section, of five and an entr’acte, in TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, to be published next year.

All in all a good time, for more of which (the Writers Guild part anyway) one may press here.

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  1. Gosh that sounds like such fun, Jim! Again (and I say it enough to your posts) I wish I could have attended! I would hope I’d be delighted with the poetry read with accompaniment for its own sake –like, it was the whole performance, not the profundity of the poem itself–that made this such a success!

  2. Of Shakespeare’s Monkey, once or twice I think the musicians got a bit too loud, threatening to drown out some of the words, but in general I thought the performance worked extremely well. (And it should be noted, while they might have had their own sound equipment, I doubt they had a chance to rehearse with that particular stage and setup.)




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