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16 April 2011

Poetry Lives Locally and Globally

We had a great open mic Friday night.

Stan Wolzen participated as did Elizabeth Jahn, Ann Edmonds, Margaret Green, Jim Ferolo and Deb Crowson, all reading their own work  All but Stan have probably been in writers' groups together and are probably all part of  Phidian, so they were worried about "everyone" having heard the poems already.  Rest assured, I had not, although being a poet, also, I don't like to have an audience hear something again.  Stan, too, agreed, commenting that musicians have it easy -- audiences want them to sing the same songs again, but he writes a new piece for each Franklin Grove get-together on the first Friday of each month.

Jim read those of two other local poets who do not go out in public anymore: Ed Beatty and Robert McClain.  He encouraged the others to go visit them.

Being with the actual writers is always a learning experience, because they give background on why and how the poem came into being.  On the other hand, I like to adhere to the philosophy of poetry by my high school  Spanish teacher, also a poet, Robert Manley, who felt he could not elaborate on one of his own poems, because  it is self-contained.  Everything he wanted to say is in the poem.  The words and construction of the poem are all that should be needed for the reader/listener to make his own interpretation.  Still, interpretation is not the same as hearing about the "backstory" to a piece.

Additionally, I introduced a great anthology of poetry (and from which I had meant to read should there be a big enough lull), The Poets Laureate Anthology, containing poems from all forty-three persons who held the position of Poet Laureate of the United States.

For a long time, the position was called "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress."  There were writers who I did not know had held the position, like Conrad Aiken, as well as very famous poets like Robert Frost.  In modern day, we have Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Howard Nemerov whom I met while at Washington University (and about whom I wrote a poem while marveling at his striding across campus totally unheralded).

All in all, it was a great open mic poetry night.  I closed the mic at 8pm -- the last quarter hour having been filled with desultory discussion on poetry and other small matters of life, with a poem by Kevin Stein, who became Illinois State's Poet Laureate in 2003.

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