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Friday, April 8, 2011

Say Thank You With Your Feet: Poetry Readings and Your Community

It's Poetry Month. Which means there are a lot of events planned. It's time to say thank you.

For example, I'm packing this morning to go to Tucson, Arizona. Tonight, I'm reading for the "Other Voices Reading Series" held at Antigone Books, run by Liza Porter.  I've read there before and they always have a great audience.

Also, this week I had a delightful breakfast with a good friend of mine, Catherine Hammond. She created and runs the premier reading event in our community--the Tempe Poetry in April events. Along with my composer friend Christopher Scinto and some other musicians, we will be reading and performing poetry and music from our jazz opera in Tempe on April 27th. We have a similiar event planned at my college campus on April 20th. And, currently, I am scheduled to do readings during poetry month all the way into 2011 and 2012.

I've given readings all over the country in all kinds of venues. For example, I've read at the prestigious and huge Chicago Humanities Festival as part of the Poetic Dialogue project which was held the year I read at Loyola University in Chicago. In Clearwater, Florida, I read at 9am in the morning to a dedicated writer's group in a library which had a two-story window that overlooked the beach. And I've read with a nationally known poet on the second floor of a jazz club in Ithaca,  New York.  I've been invited to read my poetry at universities, coffee shops, libraries, bars, bookstores, private homes, college classrooms, a converted church, book festivals, and once, even sandwhich shop. 

No matter the place, the size of the group, or if the reading series is new or well-established, the point is that those who create and run these kinds of events, significantly contribute to bringing poetry to the forefront of our consciousness.

These people--who often work for no or little money--spend a great deal of time and effort in putting these poetry reading events. Their efforts go beyond the obvious--that is finding good, dependable, engaging, interesting readers.

Their behind-the-scene efforts include maintaining a level of professionalism before, during and after the events; obtaining funding whenever that is possible for the readers but also for the hidden costs connected with venues, pr, coffee/tea-ish things etc. etc.; creating viable public relations efforts and then implementing those efforts; finding suitable--and often beautiful--physical spaces in which to readers and audiences can fully experience the magic of a poetry reading; dealing with the always and ever present Murphy's law--the endless details that--more often than not-- don't happen as they should.

Running a poetry series is a labor of love.

And, as importantly, it is a labor of love that influences our communities right now. And these events reach into the future so others will know that culture exists because these events exist, because we exist.

So, say thank you with your feet...attend a poetry reading this month.

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