Sunday, May 19, 2013

Poets Gather To Celebrate The Bard During North Country Dylan Week

Zane Bail of the Dylan Way team.
In a week of events devoted to celebrating Bob Dylan's 72nd birthday (officially, this Wednesday the 22nd) it only seems natural that in addition to music, movies and trivia there would be a component dedicated to his influence as a poet. And this year it came to pass.

At 3:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon poets and friends of poetry gathered in the Zeitgeist Atrium for the first of what will hopefully be many such assemblies. For myself it was nice to associate faces with some of the names of our local scribes. Thank you to Zane Bail and/or whoever else gave impetus to initiating this event, which included a nice handout, and some wonderful refreshments. The aroma of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies was an unexpected delight. Sarah Brokke's painting of a woman with an outstretched arm as if presenting our poets made for a nice serendipitous addition to the readings.

Poet Laureate Deb Cooper
Sheila Packa, 2010-2012 Duluth Poet Laureate, had been tapped to be moderator for the event, which included many of our region's respected poets. Bail wasted no words welcoming us and handing over the reigns. Packa began by citing a Dylan quote that underscored one of his motivations, to "write against the darkness.," readily recognized in his early protests against militarism and racism. Deb Cooper, our 2012-14 Poet Laureate was then introduced.

Cooper read from her book Under the Influence of Lilacs. The poem she selected, "She Is Grateful for the Bells," echoing Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" from his Oh Mercy album. She followed with a poem about teaching poetry at the jail, with numerous poignant lines like, "Night falls the same way everywhere..."

Ellie Schoenfield, who also has several books of poetry under her belt, followed. Schoenfield began with The "Rain Falls on the Roof" and another short piece, then offered up a knockout punch, a poem with a very long and ironic title about the last thing a man saw as he died in Guantanamo. 

Gary Belhower, 2012 winner of the Foley Poetry Award, read three pieces from his most recent book of poems, Marrow, Muscle, Flight. The first carried the simple title Poetica. He followed this with a poem titled Figure It Out. "The moon has its own reasons; you don't have to figure it out." His summing up was with a poem titled flight, which included references to Icarus, among other things.

Connie Wanek followed with a reading of "In My Craft for Sullen Art" by Dylan Thomas before sharing four of her own pieces beginning with "A Parting" and summing up with a poem for two titled "Two Degrees of Separation" which she performed with her husband.

Jan Chronister shared various poems related to road and completed her set with "I Got A Gun For Christmas."


Michelle Mathees began by mentioning that she was approaching Dylan from the Gen X perspective. Recently I've been observing a rich new crop of young poets emerging locally, and Mathees proved to be a wise addition to our more seasoned brood. She shared a poem titled "Junk It."

Phil Fitzpatrick, winner of the Dylan Days poetry contest, was scheduled to share last. His winning poem was an autobiographical accounting of his relationship to guns from early childhood cap pistols to pinging squirrels to having several close friends return from Viet Nam in various degrees damaged by them, one of these in a body bag. Poets look for fresh words and fresh ways to tell life stories, and Fitzpatrick's contributions achieved their intended aim, cajoling us into the stories and planting seeds to mull on later.

Ed Newman, least worthy of this poetry tribe, was given an opportunity to share a piece as well, noting that while in school Dylan's songs cut through to that inner place where he struggled with the disconnect between cheerful pop culture and the brokenness so apparent in Viet Nam, racism and our riots in the streets. He then shared his poem "Bad Break."

Sheila Packa closed the event with several poems of her own, keying in on the word blue. The poems were titled "Rapture", "Blues", "Denial" and "Suspended in Blue."

Zane Bail thanked us again for being present and expressed her hope that this will be another event that grows in the future.

Tonight at Carmody's Irish Pub there will be a Dylan Trivia Competition at 8:00 p.m.  The answers, my friend, will be blowin' in the wind.

Enjoy your daze throughout the week. Hope to see you on the scene.

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