My involvement with the Springfield, Illinois poetry community has diminished in recent weeks due to circumstances I will not describe in print. This retrograde turn has sullied and soured a great deal of my life, my life-long love of poetry writing/reciting and songwriting/performing has not diminished. I decided to attend This is POETRY at Springfield’s Legacy Theater because, from the look of their public relations material, the group renting the theater for the night had a good handle on a part of the poetry scene I knew nothing about.
Saturday afternoon 6-ish.
The FREE program was slated to begin at 7. Here’s the theater more than an hour before.
Pictures here are thmbnailed. Click on any for a larger image and back to return to the blog.
All pictures posted here were taken by, yours truly, Job Conger.
I was surprised (the word “DISAPOINTED” doesn’t begin to say what I really felt) to find the hostess was a drag queen who could as likely be your postman or accountant when not “dolled up” for theatrical productions. I felt I had come to what I thought would be a program of poetry only to discover that the main event was a sheep that could count to ten with its fore hooves and dance to Johnny Cash tunes on two legs. I didn’t “get” the point of it. That said, he seemed to know what he was doing. He takes his art (?) seriously.
Comedian Mike Bryant also performed. The saving grace of his performance was that the sound was so muddy and reverberating in the Legacy Theater’s basement that I could hardly understand a word that was said. It might have been that my seat was in the wrong place or — equally likely — that my hearing is going south on me, and I can’t hear as well as I did when I was younger . Others in the large hard-floored area seemed to laugh occasionally. It did not seem a particularly supportive, tuned in crowd. The hour from 6 to 7s was the opening part of the night, attended by probably fewer than 200 of us who paid $15 for the opportunity to have some beer or wine and mingle, to buy books from the book sellers.
All early show attendees were given a copy of This Is Poetry a well produced anthology with another “surprising” title. Billy Collins, one of my FAVE bards, wrote a book titled The Trouble With Poetry which I purchased, looking forward to reading what I THOUGHT would be a light-hearted “critique” of contemporary poetry. To my surprise the book was a collection of his recent poems, and not a bad read at all, but not what I expected. There is no disputing that between the covers of This Is Poetry are poems. Since the promised book coincided with the event that featured poets from New Hampshire to California, I anticipated an anthology of poems written by the participating poets. Instead, it’s an anthology of poems by women poets. I don’t know if Lady Jasmine is included; haven’t looked yet. There’s no question it’s a well-produced book, and I’ll share a review of it, and all the other books I purchased, here at Honey & Quinine.
As the floor show continued I visited the booksellers on the landing. The sponsoring organization permitted me to place some of my “folksinger” cards, poetry performance brochures and Vachel Lindsay Historic Site brochures on their table. I also encountered my friend Jeremiah Walton setting up his sale area for books donated to his Books and Shovels mobile bookstore. To be sure I could occupy a good seat for photographing the poets. I headed upstairs to the very nicely arranged theater about 6:50. About 35 minutes later, the 7:00 show began.
The rest of this post is pictures and captions. Anyone who can identify poets I do not identify is welcome to name them in comments following the end of this post. Poets I considered un-photographable because of microphone placement and a few times because their sharing of their craft simply didn’t make a positive impression, are not included here.
In the red dress is Lady Jasmine Michael. Behind him, event organizer Michele McDannold adjusts the sound.
Adam Nicholson (foreground) watches the assault. Up the stairs in the background, publications distributed by organizers and the traveling Books & Shovels mobile bookstore were offered for sale. Behind us, the Legacy Theater operated a bar that sold beer and wine, nicely set up and friendly.
Poetry in motion; aye? Lady Jasmine did his schtick with Adam less than two feet from me. This is a candid. I wasn’t angry, but I wasn’t amused. Entertainment, well performed is good, even if it’s not my cup of tea, and this was pretty good.
Comedian Mike Bryant
The sponsor’s sales table on the landing was terrific. I was familiar with none of the authors’ names on the books and CDs but production quality was first class everywhere I looked.
Jeremiah Walton of Books & Shovels mobile bookstore and a featured performer, looks over a poem he would read when the fun began upstairs.
Lady Jasmine was the emcee, and fully 45 minutes of the first hour consisted of him dancing to music and prancing up and down the center aisle. I don’t know what he did (I was seated in row two back from the stage) and I didn’t bother to look.
Jeremiah Walton wsa the first poet to take the stage.
He was one of two poets who read and recited sans microphone. He did not need one. The other one did.
The microphone and sound quality had been set earlier, and sound quality was first class all the way. In a large, upholstered venue like the theater, voices, even the best, strongly shared, suffer. Jeremiah did a fine job without the mic.
This photo has been slightly retouched.
I did not get this poet’s name, but he knew how to use a microphone, had solid stage presence, and we all heard every word he said. That’s what it’s all about, Alfie.
Another solid sharer of his poetry, I don’t remember his name.
If memory serves, three women poets read during the first half. This was one of the most memorable. I did not get her name.
Lady Jasmine called each poet over to the microphone and chatted after their readings. Unfortunately there was only one microphone so the poet responses to L cool J could not be heard. Taking the mic in hand and holding it close to the interviewed poets would have worked well at these times.
This gent was the penultimate poet of the first half. I did not get his name He recited without a microphone.
By a country mile, Bill Gainer was one of only two poets in the first half I would travel 60 miles to see and hear. J. Walton is the other.
I talked too briefly with him following the conclusion of the first half of the show. I also purchased two of his books.
Bill is one more reason I wish I lived in California, even though I love Springfield, which I have come to realize, is a good place to hide.
All poets who participated in This is POETRY
are invited to post their names and links to their web sites in the comments area that follows this post.
Bill is immersed in the poetry scene in California and, no doubt, beyond.
Bill and his fried A. Razor, who shared in the second half of the program, knew Charles Buchowski whom I hold in stellar esteem. When A. Razor (a pen name do you think? He wouldn’t say.) told me he had shaken the hand of Charles the great, I shook his hand, with his permission. With Bill’s permish, I shook his too.
Bill was the quintessential friend of a microphone. He didn’t have to use a “stage voice” to be heard in the back row. He was casually conversational, and his head was never absent mindedly thrust awaay from his friend.
chatting with Lady Jasmine after reading. I laughed as hard at his poem (book title too) The Fine Art of Poisoning (or something like that) when I read it at work two days later as I did when he shared it Saturday night! If his wife had put two or three drops in the gravy, he would not have been on the playbill for This is POETRY!
During the intermission I returned to the landing downstairs to buy some books. This woman was shopping at the sponsor’s table.
Over at the Books & Shovels mobile bookstore tables, Capt’n Lyn was busy pushin’ books to convivial customers.
Capt’n Lyn also posed with copy of my book of poetry Minstrel’s Ramble,, the blue book below the OPEN sign, which I donated to Books & Shovels.
It was late, I was tired, hadn’t eaten a thing all day and my camera battery was about dead. So, to avoid further imprinting of visions of Lady Jasmine on my liberal-but-squirming bray-een, I didn’t stay for the second half of the show. As I departed Legacy Theater I encountered elements two and three of “the traveling bookstore trio” and chatted with them before heading home to dinner.
Sam Lennon and Jeremiah Walton, new amigos from New Hampsha (as they say in the former colonies). The next afternoon they and Capt’n Lyn would leave Springfield for St. Louis and destinations west. Their saga continues. And so does mine.
It had been an evening to remember, and I promise to support any return of the sponsoring organization to the Legacy Theater. KUDOS to all who attended and everyone who was a part of This is POETRY.
Thanks for reading this post.
Live long . . . . and proper.