Monday, April 19, 2010

Passionate Poets

The National Poetry Month Celebration at the Delaware Art Museum was nothing short of passionate. With readings by four 2010 poetry fellows, including Delaware’s Poet Laureate, a recitation by the 2010 Poetry Out Loud Winner and an exciting open mic, the event was a wonderful opportunity for poets and audience alike. Gail O’Donnell, Director of External Affairs and Special Events (and poet!) reminded us of the Pre-Raphaelites love of poetry.

JoAnn Balingit, Poet Laureate of Delaware, led the event, featuring her poem, C.O.L.B.E.R.T., a witty piece inspired by Colbert’s Space Treadmill. Her weekly column in the News Journal touches on many aspects of poetry, from its healing powers to its childlike qualities.

Alex Cummiskey, winner of the 2010 Poetry Out Loud recited works by Sandburg, Swift and Noyes. His use of dynamics, tempo and facial expression brought life to the words. I rarely wish for young people to pursue an acting career, but I found myself hoping this teen will find his way into a Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde play, so blatant is his talent.

L.J. Sysko’s clever, moving words included Sculpture Garden, a poem inspired by the museum’s very own Crying Giant, by Tom Otterness. Her piece, Ode to Boxtox, is riotously funny: she writes, “Grant me medically assisted paralysis.” Memories from a childhood growing up in Ethiopia and Kenya are a poet’s palate for Abby Millager. Her vision of the wild landscape serves as her muse for Rainless Season, I covet.

Liz Dolan, read her colorful prose, including The New Yorker Glamorizes the Subway and the Holy Grail. Holy Grail gives us a glimpse into her daily experience at White Castle, waiting forever for her first coffee of the day. A retired schoolteacher, Dolan only began writing 7 years ago. She noted, “It’s never too late to start all over again.”

Notable during the open mic were Helen Griffith and Jasmine Lopez. Griffith read a wildly funny poem born from a falling feather. She debated its origins, its destination and her potential arrest resulting from stealing it off the ground. Lopez, a 16-year-old Cab Calloway student, brought down the house with her riveting performance. Hers were words of sorrow and survival, an unabashed glimpse into life with an abusive stepfather.

To paraphrase Balingit: Poetry manages to collect and form language that tells us something about ourselves. It is possible to dislike it and like it at the same time. I loved this fun afternoon and hope for many more such events.


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