June 30, 2011
Poet/Vietnam vet/toolmaker Malcolm Hall Kenyon has published 12 chapbooks of his poetry, including The Goat Island Battery and Expeditions to the Golden Triangle. He currently teaches English as a second language for the Whatcom Literacy Council and prefers, as he says, “the company of people set on fixing the world who have their sleeves already rolled up and grease on their hands.” He shares this musing on open mics:
I think the open mic at poetrynight has been crucial in my commitment to poetry. If the poet doesn’t have an audience, he is talking to himself. The peer group reading with me for the past 10 years has been a workshop, a support group, my main social outlet, a sounding board for my ideas, rhetoric, polemics. We are often said to have the most supportive open mic in the USA — this is the frequent comment by visiting poets from all over the hemisphere. I think that poets that stick strictly to the page ‘have all the words but none of the music.’ Poetry is also a spoken art, and the theater people among us have taught me that it is also a performing art. Poetry is about sound; and if you don’t speak it, there is no sound.
June 29, 2011
Poet Carla Shafer, a founder of the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, is a two-time Walk Award winner: 2007 and 2010. You can see her reading her 2010 poem, Migrant, on YouTube, here. She shares the following (poetic) reflection on the personal value of open mic readings:
“Knowing I have Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater’s open mic to prepare for, I scrabble together a poem. Whatever has been quietly rumbling around in my head gets matched to the sighting just moments ago of a song sparrow eating and chasing an orange butterfly. Once again a poem reaches out to me and I had no idea that it would. By itself this moment is rich as butter. In the writing, the moment is reshaped into something new but reflective; however, when I read the poem aloud to a room full of attentive friends, I learn a lot about the words I’ve chosen, how they sound, and where the sense of the poem touches the listeners. Just as the poem now uncovers experience, reading the words aloud uncovers how even small things I witness might fit into the larger conversation. Is it bigger than the minutes it took to shape a fragment of the world into a poem? How I feel about the poem may not change in reading it aloud, but a new textual layer associates with it that I can almost touch. This encourages me.”
June 28, 2011
Summer’s here (isn’t it?) and the houseguests will be arriving soon. Why not take them to see some art and poetry?
The new Allied Arts Bellingham/Whatcom County Arts and Culture Guide lists arts venues around the county, including the Sue Boynton Poetry Walk.
This is a great time to view the 2010 plaques on the Poetry Walk in front of the Bellingham Public Library: the bedding plants have leafed out and the flowers are blooming. The 2011 plaques will be installed in July.
The Arts and Culture Guide is available free at stores and restaurants throughout the county, or see it online at the Allied Arts website.
June 27, 2011
Jim Milstead, a prolific poet, a generous reader and a 2008 Sue Boynton Poetry Contest Merit Award winner, offers this comment on his open mic experience:
“When I first began reading at Village Books open mics I was very nervous. It was an ‘exposing my soul’ experience. Over the years I have gained confidence. I practice before appearing at an open mic, and this practice helps me detect errors, ungainly phrases, and uncertain directions. Furthermore I have learned that each audience’s response varies. What some members of an audience appreciate, other members may dislike. Rarely will everyone be pleased. As a member of the audience I obtain new ideas that help strengthen my own pieces.”
June 26, 2011
“If you have nothing to say, a sonnet will make that clear; there’s no hiding in a sonnet. It’s an open window.” Mark Jarman
June 25, 2011
Congratulations to artist, haiku-ist, ikebana-ist, puzzler and Sue Boynton Poetry Contest committee member, Sheila Sondik, whose haiku tied for first place at the Seventh Joint Meeting of Haiku Poets in the Pacific Northwest. The June 18 meeting at Fay Bainbridge State Park and Bloedel Reserve, on Bainbridge Island, drew members of the Seattle, Bellingham, Port Townsend, Vashon and Sequim haiku groups. The day’s activities included a kukai, a contest of haiku written that day on the subject of Bloedel Reserve. Sheila’s winning haiku, “based on the messed-up raked sand and rock garden outside our meeting place in the Japanese garden,” follows:
in the Zen garden
my child-rearing years
June 24, 2011
Of Jack McCarthy, the Boston Globe said, “In the poetry world, he’s a rock star.” Introducing him, Hope Jordan said of Jack: “unlike most rock stars, Jack McCarthy checks his ego at the door. This is a poet who always stays until the end of the open mike when he’s the featured reader. This is a poet who hosted a poetry show on cable television for five years, a show where local unknowns shared the stage with national superpoets. Jack has earned the respect and admiration of many of these top poets, and yet, his poems also appeal to people who say they don’t like poetry.”
Jack’s credits, prizes and poems are dazzling. He was a judge for the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest in its first year, 2006, and his publications include a book of poetry, Say Goodnight, Grace Notes, as well as chapbooks and recordings.
In his online essays, Jack talks about “Spoken Word, a term that in my mind is a virtual synonym for the Open Mike Movement” and illuminates the line between Spoken Word and “Academic” poetry.
Here are some excerpts (used with permission):
The first time anyone ever interviewed me about poetry I said, “American Poetry is like some ritzy academic town, like maybe Hanover, New Hampshire; the kind of town where if you work there, you can’t afford to live there. The Spoken Word Movement is a carnival that sets up shop on the outskirts of that town. The poetry slam is the freak show in that carnival, where people pay to stare at mutants. But evolution happens by mutation.”
Jack refers to Spoken Word as “a parallel universe” in which “poems were written with an eye toward performance” and writes
Let’s begin with generalities: Academic poets seem to believe that poetry should be difficult, written to be read, the language should be exalted, the meaning concealed, and that it’s the reader’s responsibility to follow the poet. Slam poets, on the other hand, seem to think that poetry should be accessible, written to be heard, in discursive language, its meaning — at least at one level — unmistakable, and that it’s the poet’s responsibility to hold the listener.
“…almost every slam poem begins its public life as a Spoken Word piece being read from a page at an open mike.”