• Open letter to the PG community from Poet-in-Residence, Barbara Mossberg

    Dear Community,

    As we begin a New Year (to teachers/lifelong students, September is always New Year) I wanted to update you on our poetry life in our city so far and the thoughts of our Poetry Collective for moving forward.

    We have begun our series of Poetry in the Grove, scheduled for the first Saturday of every month in the Little House in Jewell Park (thank you, Don Mothershead and all of the City making this possible, and Marge Ann for the great publicity in Cedar Street Times, and Susie and Cathy and Karin for the leadership, and Mary and Karin for the library’s support and logistics).

    Although the purpose of this program is to provide the City with a regular event that will bring knowledge and appreciation of poetry to the city’s everyday life, and citizens the opportunity to develop a community of shared love of poetry, both for those who write poetry and those who read it, it has actually generated a little money which we will give to the library. We would like to make this money for book acquisitions and some other uses as described below. The program also has resulted in at least one poet deciding to move to this area and join this community, who rented a house following the Rumi program!

    Our first program in August was on Rumi and we had a full house, and earned over $50 in contributions which we gave to the library. We began a set of practices. Cathy brought a basket with a sign for donations. Susie bought a beautiful book in which people wrote their names and contact information. People brought their books of Rumi and read these poems, and Mary arranged for Golnoush Pak to read a Rumi poem in the original language. I dressed for the occasion in a Whirling Dervish costume for dancing and twirling a la Rumi. I began by asking each person there to read sections of a poem by Rumi, and gave a lecture followed by questions and answers. Also, I asked people to introduce themselves to us and tell us about how and why they came and what a poetry event in PG means to them. And Susie Joyce agreed to perform an original jazz interpretation of a Rumi poem. Also, I and our team put up multiple notices about the event on our PG Poetry Collective facebook face, to help create a sense of community around this event.

    The September program was on Gary Snyder (in honor of his poem “For All” which begins, “Ah, to be alive on a mid September morning”), and we had again virtually a full house with all seats taken, and $37 was contributed. Marge Ann made a beautiful poster for the Cedar Street Times to advertise, and our team put it out on various web media. Our Poetry Collective meeting agreed to give to the Library $25 toward a book(s) by Gary Snyder, and $12 for the Library heat fund, to which I am contributing another $25 from my family, to make that a total of $37. If there were more time I would love to do a fundraiser on the poetry of hearth and heat, but what I can do right now before the Nov 1 deadline is discuss it on my radio show this next Sunday and ask listeners to contribute. I dressed à la Snyder in forest ranger clothes. Susie sang “For All” and I recorded it on video to put on to our PG Poetry Collective facebook page. As a group we took turns reading Snyder and also in unison chanted his pledge of allegiance from “For All.” We took group pictures of the event which I am sending to our facebook home page for the PG Poetry Collective. Again, people brought their books of Snyder, and it will become a regular feature of the program to ask people to read from what they bring if they so wish. I took photographs of the group and will post them. Finally, I talked about the event on my Poetry Slow Down (KRXA540AM, podcast BarbaraMossberg.com), and designated it as our Happy Hour, since it is from 4-6 pm.

    Our October 5 event is on Sylvia Plath (for her poem, “Poppies in October” —October is Plath’s birthday month). We will ask people to bring their favorite poems and to read them. I will ask Susie to sing one of her poems. For my part, I have lectured on Plath worldwide, including Rhodes Hall at Oxford University for Plath’s 75th birthday anniversary, and was dramaturg on a play about her, which involved doing a talk and Q & A with audiences at the Cherry Center in Carmel, at the Oxford Playhouse (UK), and Off-Broadway 59E59, and I will give a talk on Plath’s life and the experience of speaking about her in many cultures: to what extent was this young woman a global voice? And what did being “in the grove” mean to her in her own life? And is it possible to think of her as a profoundly comic writer, as well as tragic?

    Going forward, November 2 will be an event in which people will be invited to bring poems honoring dead poets and loved ones in honor of Edgar Allen Poe and Day of the Dead.

    December 7 is the time that I have given my Emily Dickinson lecture and reading to the library, which I would like to do again at the library the 7 or 8. It would be wonderful to have a different Saturday House program. We have a lot of ideas for the months ahead, including February love, March on Emily Dickinson (“Dear March! Come in!”). April, T.S. Eliot? And we would like to invite poets to come read, and entice our own Bill Minor to play music as well as perform his poems — that would be wonderful. Also, to invite Robert Marcum from The Works to play in honor of Gordon Lightfoot. We could have a troubadour time! We are also inviting people who come to contribute their ideas, and so far we have a terrific set of suggestions, including Stanley Kunitz, Anna Akmatova, David Whyte, W.S. Merwin, and Tillie Olsen.

    Action Items

    We would like to invite one of the people who came to the two events so far to join the PG Poetry Collective, Shawn Boyle, who has proposed an idea for Poetry Boxes to be put up around the City, for people who put in poems and find poems.

    We would like to write a grant through the PG Poetry Collective to allow people to get support for their projects that bring poetry to our City life.

    I make a monthly dinner at Poet’s Perch to discuss ideas and ways we can use the Poet in Residence position to contribute to PG life. I will provide a time and date to get us all together for a dinner this fall, for my thanksgiving to you and our City. My tradition is to make it all things fall colors and to ask people to bring poems on this theme. I will be sending invitations soon.

    I am working on a collection of Fat Lady Flying poetry and recipes Comfort and Joy (developed and written at Poet’s Perch) and will seek a local publisher as well as doing a reading and benefit for the Library).

    Thank you all very much, and our PG Poetry Collective — the biggest tribute to our City — and the groove it has generated in creativity and caring for quality of life.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on September 12, 2013

    Topics: Arts & Music


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