Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Last night brought a little bit different mix at the First Wednesday Bloomington Writers Guild Spoken Word Series at Bear’s Place (cf. October 3, et al.).  The session began with poet Roger Pfingston with locally-based poems, primarily from his latest chapbook, WHAT’S GIVEN,

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Ernie Pyle, as remembered on the IU campus (IDS Photo)

followed by poet/performer and sometime teacher of theatrical magic Tom Hastings with dramatic readings of works by several poets and even a rope trick, emphasizing that a stage magician’s patter is at least as important as the trick itself.  Then third was WFHB radio writer and performer Richard Fish reading selections from Indiana University journalism graduate and war correspondent Ernie Pyle’s columns from World War II as an interesting — and in places touching — change of pace, while musical interludes were provided by guitarist and singer Gabriel Harley.

This was followed by six “Open Mic” readers (a seventh, Joan Hawkins, relinquished her spot to Gabriel Harley for two final songs), of which I was third with another in the “Casket Girls” series, “Flightless Rats,” of New Orleans vampiress Aimée’s encounter with a religious man with a slightly odd take on the Noah’s Ark story.

Past Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf was the lead featured reader at Wednesday’s Bloomington Writers Guild Spoken Word Series at Bear’s Place (cf. September 4, et al.), reading a dozen selections from his latest book, INDIANA HILL COUNTRY.  He was followed in a slightly truncated session by writer and sometime dancer and actor Zilia Balkansky-Selles with four highly descriptive essay-poems, “two long, and two short,” and Newburgh Indiana poet and musician Jon Koker with work from his book SON.  Musical interludes were by guitarist/songwriter Richard Layton, while I came in second of seven “Open Mic” readers with the shortest and newest (and perhaps somewhat influenced by Joan Hawkins’ and Tonia Matthew’s “color” presentation last month) of the “Casket Girls” series, “Shades of Difference.”

A new month and tonight a new Bloomington Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” (cf. August 7, et al.), co-sponsored by local Bear’s Place tavern, was heavy on poetry.  The featured guests, in fact, were four members of Bloomington’s “Five Women Poets” writing group, Antonia Matthew (who we’ve met before, including with last month’s “Home Front” audio drama, cf. August 10) with an “assisted” (i.e. a portion of the “plus one”?) dialog poem on “Flip Flops at the White House,” but with more serious work as well; Anya Peterson Royce with poems on dancers, anthropology, Ireland, and other topics; Leah Helen May with memories of childhood and toads, locusts, seasons, and old age; and Margaret Fisher Squires on dragons, remodeling, psychology, and Biblical ruminations.  This was followed by a not quite feature, not quite walk-on (the rest of “plus one”?) on a sort of Writers Guild inside joke with Chairperson Joan Hawkins reading names of colors of black with commentary by Antonia Matthew.  So — okay — you had to be there.

Musical interludes were by Travis Puntarelli.  Then at real “Open Mic” time there were only three takers this outing, with me first with another “casket girls” tale, “A Surfeit of Poe,” about poetess Yvonne’s having met Baudelaire and bringing back a copy of his first volume of translations of Edgar Allan Poe.  But the question was, did Poe ever write any tales about vampires?

Came the 7th, the first Wednesday in August, and with it the Bloomington Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” (cf. July 3, et al.), co-sponsored by local Bear’s Place tavern, with music provided by “experimental/mod classical” group ORTET.  The featured guests were Michael Dauro with excerpts from his speculative epic-in-progress spaghetti western inspired SIERRA AMNEZIA (hero:  “The Woman With No Name”); Rachel Ronquillo Gray who, “evoking her muse,” read poems on the theme of girls, girlhood, what it means to be a good girl, and what happens when good girls stop being good; and Indiana University’s Dr. Jen Maher with a wonderfully funny essay on the connections between infertility and recreational shoplifting.  Then at “Open Mic” time I came seventh of a perhaps record thirteen readers with part two of my “casket girls” story “A Moment in Time,” of the vampiress Lo and, as we found out, who the “nice sailor man” Mel really was who she’d met in New Bedford Massachusetts in late 1840.

Walt who?  You know, the American poet and possible father of modern poetry, that Walt Whitman, who, born on May 31 1819, is celebrating in absentia a slightly late 200th birthday this summer and autumn.  As for the picnic, that’s a Bloomington Writers Guild summer tradition (see July 22 2018, et al.), a relaxed potluck lunch with perhaps some readings — as well as a reminder that, with a resumed “First Sunday Prose” at the start of August (August 4, I believe, but I don’t have a calendar with me, followed only three days later by another “Spoken Word Wednesday at Bears Place” reading), plus the Spoken Word On Stage extravaganza at the Labor Day Weekendish, early September Bloomington Arts Fair, a busy fall season is not far ahead.

But as for Walt Whitman?  Well, after the eating part of the picnic came a mike-less “open mic” session, featuring a crowd somewhat smaller than usual possibly due to *very* hot weather (heat index, I think, in the low 100s though threatening thunderstorms which did not come) plus area road construction making the site somewhat hard to get to.  Part of the idea was to read bits of Whitman’s work should the spirit so move, which was taken up on by four or five people (I not among them as, by sheer coincidence, a short piece from SONG OF MYSELF that I’d brought with me proved also to have been chosen by another), along with some discussion of the poet’s life which I did join in briefly.  Then two or three people followed with bits of their own or others’ work, for which I had also brought a short poem but, seeing the drift of most present, kept in my pocket in favor of just leaning back and listening to what others offered.

In short a pleasant but lazy, if sweaty, Sunday afternoon shared among writer friends.

On 4th of July Eve, the Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” (cf. June 5, et al.) was heavy on poets at local tavern Bears Place.  The musical guests were Hoosier Darling (a.k.a. WFHB GoZpul GurlZ), while the featured readers were Shana Ritter with an excerpt from her novel IN TIME OF LEAVING plus poems from her chapbook STAIRS OF SEPARATION, John James with poetry from his book THE MILK HOURS and elsewhere, and local poet Ross Gay with, as a change of pace, a selection of essays from his collection THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS.  Then when it was “Open Mic” time, my series of “casket girls” tales came in fifth place out of eight with the only one long enough to need to be divided into two parts, “A Moment in Time” (Part 1), in which we met New Orleanian vampiress Charlotte, a.k.a. Lo, and a half-remembered conversation with a “nice sailor man” in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1840.  But to find out more, we must wait until next “first Wednesday” on August 7.

Ah, June!  And with Wednesday evening it was time again for the Bloomington Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at Bears Place (cf. May 2, et al.).  The musical guests were the VLF (drummer John Valdez, bass Park Law, and guitarist and sometime voice Jason Fickel) Trio, sharing the stage with poetry by Tim Heerdink, author of RED FLAG AND OTHER POEMS plus another collection, THE HUMAN REMAINS, and first novel LAST LIGHTS OF A DYING SUN due in the near future; creative nonfiction (and sometimes mixed with a little fiction too) from Juliana Crespo with work in or forthcoming in a number of literary journals; and more poetry from local Bears Place server Brian Boucher, with a novella, “Wahoo,” serialized in THE RYDER Magazine plus poetry book ARROGANT ENLIGHTENMENT AND A CRY FOR PURPOSE on Instagram.  Then we, the walk-ons came with, in fifth place out of seven, new fille à la caissette Yvonne making her debut in a brief, 1830s-set New Orleanian tale of blood and absinthe, “The Darkness, Forgotten.”

Or, as one might say, the last “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic” of the current season, the series going on summer hiatus for June through August.  Presented by the Writers Guild at Bloomington in collusion with The Monroe County Convention Center, there were two featured poets this wonderfully warm end-of-May afternoon:  the first, Nancy Chen Long, author of LIGHT INTO BODIES along with a chapbook CLOUDS AS INKBLOTS FOR THE WAR PRONE, both of which were available at the reading, read six poems from her latest project, WIDER THAN THE SKY, about memory and the actions of the brain; this then followed by Writers Guild regular Eric Rensberger reading from the most recent “sequence” — a chronological grouping of fifty to sixty poems — from his ongoing internet collection ACCOUNT OF MY DAYS.  Then after the snack break a larger than usual group of seven poets offered their work, of which I was sixth with three summer (or at least with summer mentioned in them) poems, “Dust to Dust” about a fire in a cemetery, “Summer Cancellations” concerning seasonal ways to die, and the vampirically-tinged “The Esthete,” the last of which also appears in my own VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE).

So after a busy, busy May 1, last night also featured the third “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at its new time and venue, at local tavern Bears Place (cf. April 4, March 6).  And it was a stormy night as well, but dinner and poetry helped keep as many as 17 participants dry, including musical interludes by the Kyle Quass Quartet (their final performance accompanied by one of the poets as well).

The featured readers — all poets this time — were multi-published Hiromi Yoshida, a semi-finalist for the 2018 Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize and a winner of Indiana University Writers Conference Awards as well as an active member of the Beat Generation and Daily Haiku Facebook Groups; Indianapolis poet Jason Ammerman with three collections, ALL GROWN UP, MICROPHONE OR BUST, and BATTLE SCARRED, a spoken word album REVIVAL, and more of each in the works; and David L. O’Nan with two poetry and short story books, THE FAMOUS POETRY OUTLAWS ARE PAINTING WALLS AND WHISPERS and ALL OUR FEARS AND TUNNELS, as well as a new poetry and art book project, THE FAVORS OF THE MIND POETRY & ART DIGEST, in the works for later this spring.  These were followed by four walk-on “Open Mic” readers of which I led off with the third in my New Orleans “Casket Girl” series* in which we meet Marie, who has qualms about becoming a vampire, until she is calmed by hearing the tale of an adventure original vampiress Aimée had once had when visiting Rome.

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*For those interested, the original “Casket Girls” first appeared in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION on April 10 2014. A reprinted version (with better renditioning of accented vowels) from ARIEL CHART, February 2 2018, may be read by pressing here.

The third Sunday this April is Easter Sunday so the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Third Sunday Write” (see March 17, et al.) had to be scheduled a week early this time.  And while the warm-up exercises could be a bit prosey — a list of things known and that one might like to know, answers to the question “What feeds you?” (which could be poetic), and a descriptive rendering of a favorite place, the final event took on a more poetic flavor.  Poems from three poetry books were read with instructions to note down lines or phrases that seemed to particularly stand out; then write your work incorporating some of these phrases.  Mine, a poem called “Magma,” discussed energy in its various forms, potential, kinetic, but also mental — in imagination — and will it matter?  The ending, another “borrowed” line:  “The gods are never caught.”

Not much will come of this one for me, probably, in terms of work that could lead to a story, but it was fun.  And the end, fun too, was to comment not so much on others’ readings of what they composed, but to also pick out lines and phrases that stood out — an exercise in imagination but also an appreciation of things that can spark it.




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