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28 November 2009

Poetry Lives in Downtown Dixon

In April 2002, I tried spreading word about the Open Mic Poetry Night at Books on First for through sending a packet of information including a poster to the heads of all area high school English Departments (or Language Arts Departments, as the case may be).

Actively recruited by myself or regular customers who are really self-motivated poetry lovers (one who took the time off from his night job stocking at a retail store) came, but overall, participation was thin that early Friday evening. One might respond, well, what would you expect, it's poetry, after all, in Dixon! There was one high schooler -- from Amboy, a town some 13 miles to the southeast of Dixon -- in attendance. And, she wrote really good verse, groups of lines with an edge, a twist and a burst of colour and light that made one stop and think, this is really good.

I asked how she came to hear about the Open Mic Poetry Night. She said she had discovered it by accident. She read it upside down as it lay on the desk as she waited to speak to the teacher one day after class. Did the poster ever go up on a bulletin board? Not that she saw.

I am happy to say that poetry thrives, but not with the help of English/Language Arts departments.

It takes a lot of work to put something together and sustain it. Jim Ferolo had a great turnout for our inaugural Sunday afternoon poetry salon in May here in the West Wing of Books on First. It was carry-over momentum from April is Poetry Month Open Mic. Larry and I unfortunately were out of town at the BookExpo in NYC. Lots of enthusiasm and support. And, then, summer arrives, people go on vacation. And then, school starts again. And then, the holidays are upon us. Jim has not been able to re-start such a promising program.

There is, however, a younger and more energetic movement on, begun by Nick Novak, one of our poetry lovers whose poem he read so moved Clarence Mitchell in attendance at his last April is Poetry Month night before his death at 102, that he said, "I thought I was a fairly good writer until I heard truly brilliant poetry."

Check out Open Poetry Night at Spurgeon's Bay every Tuesday beginning at 9:30pm, right here in Downtown Dixon. If you think there's a typo in here, you're not a long-time Dixonite. Currently the site of a cavernous casual dining/bar/stage venue, Spurgeon's was once a department store, one of at least two in this city. The play on that name is fun, and I think they started out attempting a tropical touch. Drink specials, too, for poetry lovers all night on Tuesdays. Dixon has come a long way. Kudos, Nick, and we wish you the best of luck in keeping the torch going.

Books on First continues to have our Open Mic Poetry Night during April (April is Poetry Month). Stay tuned.

Speaking of Spurgeon's Bay and Books on First in the same breath, tonight we have live entertainment from Acoustic Circus which includes bass guitarist and mandolin & banjo player Steve Catron, beginning at 7pm. We close at 9pm and that's when he hightails it across the street to Spurgeon's Bay to join Robbie LeBlanc (also a veteran act at Books on First). He says they've rented a sound system there, so it's plug and play for his bass.

Visiting our fair city and store today for his annual Christmas shopping splurge was Lou Frosch, who used to live and work in Dixon and come into Books on First each weekday afternoon. He became known as "Afternoon Lou" to distinguish him from another Lou who came each weekday at 7am. What a storehouse of knowledge. And, he has recently finished a play in two acts, Nothing to Conceal. This is a play of history and it is interesting to learn about British Field Marshall John Dill, so much admired by his American counterparts that he was interred at Arlington National Cemetary with full military honors upon his death in November 1944, "the only foreign general to be accorded that honor." We are in the acknowledgments for having been able to supply him with the books for his research needed to write the play. Our pleasure, Lou!

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