A year ago, I never thought I would be talking about my amazing journey of poetry, with an intimate community of diverse poets. It began with a simple question that I emailed to Susan Didier, the Community Development Specialist for the Town of Indian Trail. I asked if poetry open mic readings or other poetry related events were offered by the center. Sadly she said no, but invited me to stop by to discuss developing something. Initially, I thought the plan would be for a one-time poetry reading. However, here we are one year later, celebrating my first anniversary of working with Susan to develop what would be the “First” of many “Firsts” from our collaborations in poetry. We called this anniversary celebration “Picnic of Poetry,” our last hoorah for the summer.
Since my first “Conversations in Poetry” open mic reading in September, 2013, we witnessed a growing community of poets and poetry enthusiasts who became involved with our initiative. Another “first” came when I sent out invitations to Mayors around North Carolina to issue a proclamation on behalf of their city or town, to recognize April as National Poetry Month. I was humbled to receive responses from many Mayors who agreed to participate in my project. During National Poetry Month (NPM) 2014, Mayor Michael Alvarez of Indian Trail read and issued his Mayoral Proclamation for this historical commemoration. Click here to see the video recapping that monumental event. Another special moment in poetry occurred when I facilitated the first poetry workshop for children that Susan and I planned. Eleven children from age 5 to 12 participated in this workshop. They were taught the fundamentals of poetry, recited poems they created during the session, and displayed a collage they designed inspired by their poems. This was a free workshop and participants were rewarded with a certificate of completion and gifts.
Last Saturday, as we celebrated our first anniversary, at the Indian Trail Cultural Arts Center, a fresh pot of poetry gumbo was being served, with spectacular ingredients for a hearty poetic appetite. Appearing on the menu was a true Thespian reciting Shakespeare, personal reflections from a Pulitzer Prize Nominee, spiritual revelations delivered by a Spoken Word artist, a recital by a five-year old, who is a published author of a children’s illustration book, poetic verses accompanied by the art of an accomplished violinist, and many personal stanzas of reflection shared by other local poets.
The Picnic of Poetry festivities brought out an amazing night of incredible talent performed by poets Amanda Vilani, Dwight Roth, Kyla McKenzie, Robert Hinson, Christian George, Michael Faulkenberry, Alan Pearce, Tara Trent, Rome D’Carlo and Ryan Petty. A special audience-involved poetry musical postlude was performed by open mic regular Chip Long, accompanied by poet and guitarist, Dwight Roth. Susan Didier caught the proverbial poetry bug and read her poem, “The Dynamic Start” that highlighted how the poetry revolution began, with the first time she and I met in her office, at the Cultural Arts Center. Click on the photos below for individual captions.
I officially established my Poets for Hunger© mission and partnered with the Cultural Arts Center to begin collecting canned goods and non-perishable food items for Common Cupboard. Common Cupboard is a food pantry established in 2006, by Common Heart. We will continue to collect these food items, at the October and November poetry open mic events, to benefit those in need within our community. Keith Adams, Executive Director of Common Heart, addressed the audience with history about the organization’s humble beginnings, ongoing dedicated mission and amazing contributions they are making to those who need it, in the community.
Last, but not least, we announced the call for entries in our very first “Poet Tree Bird House Contest.” Applications were available for those who wanted to participate and there are two categories – one for adults and one for children. Judging will be based on the best decorated bird house, the best poem and best overall, in both categories. Judging will be done in late October and the winners will be announced during our November Open Mic night. The undecorated bird houses are provided by Peddlers Marketplace, on Highway 74 in Indian Trail.
To say the least, this had been an incredible year of many historical “firsts” for me, on my poetic journey. It is such an honor to meet so many poetry enthusiasts, artists, musicians and supporters of this genre, who have enriched my life in a magnificent way. I look forward to preparing an even larger pot of poetry gumbo, to feed more hungry poetry souls, on the road ahead! Thanks Susan Didier! To our poets, old and new, you guys ROCK!