Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting Naked with the Poets at Pineapple Arts

Poets filled the room, and the night was young.
Monday night I attended an open mic event for poets in Downtown Duluth. I was not only impressed at how many there were who gathered but also at the quantity of readers who shared, many for the first time. A special nod to Kathleen Roberts of the PRØVE Collective for the invite.

Poetry is one of the great gifts from somewhere beyond ourselves. Even during the Exodus of ancient times, after the Israelites successfully escaped the travesty of being slaughtered at the Red Sea by the pursuing Egyptian armies it’s no surprise that among the first acts of Moses, so moved by this incredible experience, was to record his deep emotions poetically. For some reason, ordinary prose feels inadequate at times.

And so it is that humanity marks its moments in time by recording lines that aspire to connect with something internal and meaningful and vast.

The open mic poetry reading at Pineapple Arts attracted both local poets and friends of the poetic arts. The evening began with host Kathleen Roberts reading an amusing short short poem by James Tate titled Teaching the Ape to Write Poems.

I was impressed by the number of poets who brought material to share, many of them for the first time, all of them impressing me with both the candor and wit their shared lines revealed. The first two, in fact, were first timers. A young man named Chris read a poem called A Rap. Upon completion the respectful and attentive audience endorsed the reader with a mix of applause and snapping of fingers, which I found interesting. These were young people, and like every generation the young have to put their own fingerprints on the traditions they have received.  Ben then shared a poem he'd written called Precipice with a lot of nice images and a second, Tomorrow Almost Never Comes.

A few of the many who shared were Dorothy, Faith, Jessica, Tommy, River, Ben, myself and Bob Monohan. Themes included a poem written as a result of our lousy spring (Faith), the universe outside and within (Jessica), loss (Kate Monson), echoes (River), the "summer my eyes opened" (River), white privilege (Chris the DJ) and a stereotypical graduation speech (Ben Butter).

What I liked was the sense of total acceptance as people shared some very personal things. Bob Monohan stated "poetry is like stripping" before he launched into some humorous but pointed pieces titled, "Look At Me, I've Got a Girl Friend", "101 Love Poems" and "You're Rich."

River Maria Urke, who grew up in Duluth, is a serious poet and author who is also a publisher in Stillwater. Urke produces an arts and literary journal aptly called The River, as well as The Book Den (Twowolvz Press). Urke, who is more frail now then when she was young due to MS, described herself as "39, with a cane in one hand, dreaming of a midnight waltz through main street." You can find her handiwork at

For a nice encapsulation of the event see this overview by David Beard, professor of rhetoric at UMD.

Whether your a serious poet or simply a dabbler who occasionally has a desire to share and get feedback, there's a strong supportive community here. By means of sharing we not only learn the value of our own voices, we enrich others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Correction: Kate Monson poems about loss.