On the Road with Ohio Writers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/7984513253/ photo by Ken Lund

by Ed Davis on April 15, 2013

Poetry . . . and More

Have you ever seen a living poet inhabit the body, mind and spirit of a deceased one? I did recently during one of the literary events I’ve attended in 2013. We live in an extremely rich literary region, and here are a few amazing venues that prove it!

hmartinpdunbarDunbar and Martin

Last Saturday, April 13, I experienced the first installment in the Ohioana Library’s “On the Road” Saturday Literary Adventure Series, touring both the Paul Laurence Dunbar house and Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. The highlight was a performance by Herbert Woodward Martin, a Dunbar scholar, who hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for performing the work of Dayton’s most famous writer. From the standard-English classic “We Wear the Mask” to dialect delights such as “An Ante-Bellum Sermon” to Martin’s own original poetry, the former University of Dayton poet-in-residence brought the written word to life with his flawless performance.

Due to tardiness of some participants, the tour began almost an hour late. However, because a video was not shown, Martin’s part of the program was fortunately not shortened. If you missed this one, check out Ohioana.org for the rest of the series. From now through December, there’s at least one tour per month celebrating Ohio authors, including such gems as “The Mysteries of Amish Country” in September to “Thurber’s Haunted House” in October. Hop on the bus!

Troy Hayner CenterTroy-Hayner Poetry Series

It takes me only thirty-five minutes to drive from Yellow Springs to Troy, Ohio, where Professor David Petreman has been hosting his winter poetry series for twelve years. A well-published regional writer reads on a Thursday evening every January, February and March, culminating in a reading by winners of the annual contest. Last February I decided to drive up and hear Petreman himself read. I was extremely glad I did.

The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, a beautiful, stately mansion, was given to the city by a family who made their fortune from whiskey. The rooms where the readings and reception occur make you feel like you’re waiting to hear Poe or Twain take the stage. Dave entertained with diverse poems about everything from losing his daughter in the Chilean outback to travel in Tierra del Fuego.  His seventh-grade daughter Amalia, a Stivers School for the Arts student, played solo violin during brief interludes:  a real treat. It’s a classy series in an atmospheric setting, well worth the trip.

MontageMontage Café

Ed.3It’s a short hop west of Troy to historic Greenville, Ohio, home of the Friends of the Library’s  varied-genre readings that take place at the wonderful Montage Café on a Friday night once a month in January, February and March. Last month, I read from a novel-in-progress to an incredibly attentive and appreciative audience. Librarians, readers and writers, these folks take their literature seriously. You can tell from the photo how atmospheric and inviting Montage is, and friends who attended said the food was yummy. I sold a passel of books and made some new friends. Mark your calendars for next year.

yellow_springs2Yellow Springs Library

Spring, Old Blue Eyes
Spring, Old Blue Skies—
The sun a flower in Easter’s hat—
And every robin’s bobulating . . .

These lines were recited by Robert Paschell when the Yellow Springs branch of the Greene Country Library sponsored its first poetry reading in honor of National Poetry Month last Tuesday, April 10. Hosted by Paschell, the living embodiment of Walt Whitman himself, the reading also included poets Maxine Skuba and Jack Whitacre. (Everyone knows Robert, the gentle, bearded guy who sells his pun-delicious hand-made tee-shirts on the street.) After opening with the poem above, Robert circulated a two-page list of opening lines, urged us to make requests and then held forth with the memorized poem, often lengthy with dazzling imagery and language. No dull monotones here, these poets enacted their work. Maxine’s often humorous, Jack’s slightly Buddhist with a hip-hop edge. We kept dragging out more and more chairs, a healthy sign that poetry is alive and well in Yellow Springs. It was suggested by many that another poetry event be held in the YS library this year.

Readings to Come

And while we’re on the library scene, a poetry reading that’s become an annual fixture is the one hosted by Conrad Balliet at the Montgomery Country Library’s downtown branch.  This year’s event is slated for April 20, Sat. 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Star of WYSO’s “Conrad’s Corner,” Conrad is a one-man support system of local poets. The annual reading features poets from his program and always includes an open mic. He’s always scouting for writers who’d like to air their work on radio. Conrad limits poets to three minutes each, so it’ll be a brisk smorgasbord. You’ll hear exciting new voices alongside veteran performers. I read a couple of years ago, and I can promise you won’t be disappointed.

While you’re at it, you may as well mark your calendars also for Friday, December 13, when Tecumseh Land Trust and Vernet Ecological Center will sponsor the second annual Glen Helen Poetry Reading. Last December more than twenty local poets performed, and this year promises the same sort of riches when the theme is “Solstice.” Stay tuned for more details as the year wanes.

Poetry’s Purpose

At the conclusion of his performance noted above,  Robert Paschell said he considers his mission as a poet is to praise. Perhaps, too, as the final lines of his poem with which I began this blog state, it’s “to show the hidden sparkle/In the depths of every living thing.”  Amen, poets and writers everywhere.

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