Monday, March 3, 2014

Saint David's Day Open Mic Event: More Proof That Northland Poetry Scene Is Alive and Well

“Each year new consuls and proconsuls are made, but not every year is a king of poet born.” ~Lucius Anneus Florus, c. 125 A.D.

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. 
~Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society

Saturday morning I received a reminder that the 18th Annual St. David's Day Open Mic poetry event was taking place that evening in that wonderful new space called The underground (formerly the Duluth Children's Museum.) Fortunately I'd completed enough of my chores to escape for this surprisingly fun annual poetry competition.

Arriving a half hour early gave me a chance to greet a few familiar faces as they sauntered in from the cold. A young woman was playing what I believe was a ukelele while the crowd grew. By the time Paul Lundgren called the event to order -- by reading the required acknowledgements to ARAC and other foundations that made this event possible -- there must have been near 100 people in the room to share, support or listen. It whet the appetite for what was to come.

Minnesota Book Award winner Louis Jenkins is credited with conceiving this event. One of its aims is to honor the anniversary of the canonization of St. David, the patron saint of Wales. A second is to showcase area voices and kiss winter goodbye.

The caliber of talent is what impressed me most. Two Duluth Poet Laureates read as well as a host of others whose works have become increasingly familiar to me over the years.

The structure of the readings went like this. This is an open mic event and anyone who wished could sign up. There were two segments. In the first you had three minutes to read an original poem, or poems. After a brief intermission the second segment feature people reading a poem by someone else. For fairness sake the three minutes was strictly enforced.

The range of topics people wrote about was as interesting as the poems themselves. Three people, including myself, read a poem about Lake Superior. Sheila Packa read a poem called The Chain and then A Season of Silver, a dozen haiku featuring silver. John Ramos shared a poem about giving a urine sample, called Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Jar. There were break up poems, a poem about a prediction by Nostradamus, humorous poems about drinking, and other themes.

There were several poems I especially enjoyed including Phil Fitzpatrick's When the Must Must Leave the Country.

And the winner is...
This is actually a competition and there are judges who vote for best poet. The winning poet gets to bring home the chair. Ellie Schoenfeld, who was seated to my right and who is the only person to have brought home the chair more than once, immediately commented that the chair was now a different color. Paul Lundgren notified us that it was still the same chair but had been re-upholstered.

Rocky Makes Room For them was last year's winner of the chair and his poem Black Hills Payment showed us why. He delivered his lines from within, had no script. He also made it a piece of entertainment.

Kat Mandeville was the only other to deliver a memorized poem. Her piece, The Logic of Monogamy, was polished and pointed.

The only downside of these live poetry readings is that one wishes he or she were able to re-read the poems and savor them more fully. No sooner is one poem delivered when we have to drink another. It would be nice to pause time between each reading.

People reading the poetry of others was possibly half the number of the first group. I found this idea to be a very interesting twist. It gave poets a chance to introduce some other flavors into the mix from various sources. There were poems by Philip Larkin, Baudelaire, Elizabeth Bishop and more. Kat Mandeville shared a poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. I shared The Hermit by a blind poet Charlene Groves of New Jersey.

By evening's end Diane Dinndorf Friebe took home The Chair for her two poems about the lake, Mystery Woman, and Lake Superior.

Be sure to mark this event on your calendars for next year. I have already begun thinking about who to share for that second half. Maybe Pessoa, maybe a Rilke. We'll see what happens.

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For what it's worth, I will be doing a book signing at the Superior Public Library tomorrow evening and donating a copy of my first volume of short stories titled Unremembered Histories to the library. Among other things, I will be reading briefly from one of the stories titled Duel of the Poets. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.


My Inner Chick said...

***We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.***


ENNYMAN said...