Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poetry on a spring night in Cheyenne

Attended an open mic poetry reading tonight at the Laramie County Public Library. A crowd of about 50 first heard the featured poet, Luke Striker (sp?) from Laramie. He's a young poet with a goatee (but no black beret). He received his M.F.A. in creative writing from University of Wyoming two years ago and now teaches there. As is the case with most M.F.A. writers, he's looking for a full-time job and writing his heart out.

He opened with "Lawrence" by one of his influences, Tony Hoagland. It's about D.H. Lawrence and how a batch of academics sneered at the man's work, although they weren't fit to drink his piss (not the exact quote, but you get the idea). Lawrence a man of the world and definitely not an academic. A big influence on writers from the West due to his wild streak and his time in Taos.

Some great lines in Luke's poems "Rock Hopping" and "Ars Poetica." In the latter poem, he managed to slip in William Carlos Williams' "red wheelbarrow" reference (something to do with chickens). I have to admit I never understood that poem, but that may be the point. I like Williams' poetry but I crave his short stories.

After Luke stepped down from the stage, up went a rapid procession of poets and musicians. Chris Howes (sp?) recently returned to Cheyenne after a decade in other places. He played guitar and sang an original song about his home state. My daughter Annie read two poems, one she just wrote today called "Dreams of the Afterlife."

Born out of Virgin Mary, her
womb an orb of light and purity.

And this from a kid of cradle Catholics. She was baptized in the church (our choice), but now is a 16-year-old vegetarian atheist (her choice).

But I walk on thin cracked ice
each step precarious and unsure,
I feel the cold pierce my feet.

This is the first time she read her work in public. She was nervous, and I was a proud papa.

Her friend Brandon read two of his poems. Ed Warsaw, founder of Serendipity Poets, read his poetry and Dick Hart, Cheyenne's poet laureate, read his take on "that's the way it is in the West." An eighth-grade singer/songwriter and a high school sophomore trying out the first verse of his new song (still working on the second verse -- not the same as the first).

Carrie Hartmann, assistant county librarian, read the first poem she ever wrote (at 16) and then a new poem celebrating her daughter's impending college graduation. She then performed Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," utilizing her considerable acting skills.

We express ourselves. So crucial. On a spring night in Cheyenne.

Meanwhile, the white chickens are outside in the rain, doing something with a red wheelbarrow.


mpage225 said...

Mike, very nice. From the small snippet you gave us, it appears that Annie has inherited some of her dad's literary talent (and perhaps more). Let me know when we can get the full version.

And props to Luke from Laramie. I first encountered DH Lawrence in Dr. Duckworth's Early 20th Century Eng. Lit at UF. He had us read The Rainbow. Easily the best lit class I have ever taken-Joyce, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. I was a bit intimidated by Prof. Duckworth, but loved the class.


Michael Shay said...

Bob: Prof. Duckworth one of my favorites. If I remember correctly, I had him for two classes. Great English profs at UF and I trust that tradition continues.