National poetry month was a real eye-opener. Poets great and small threw wide their doors and invited us in. I had the opportunity to hear many people with whom I was not familiar read their work. Two that stand out are Yvonne Murphy with her insightful, scholarly examination of language and Laurelyn Whitt who writes of languages lost in her exploration of interstitial space. I also enjoyed the works of several
other people, but did not catch their names. An older man recalled the wildflowers that were his childhood companions, and a chance meeting in the town library with a young reader who explained whales. Another poet wrote passionately about the loss of a loved one, stolen from him by AIDs.
Among the anti-war poems was written by a Korean Veteran. The horror as fresh today was it was in 1953. The memories still so vivid he could only to sing his poem in faltering monotone to keep his tears at bay. I was impressed by these fine writers and by the community they share. I only wish those of us who write prose could have such a community as well. There seem to be any number of ongoing “slams” and “open mic poetry” events to be found. Theirs is not on-line social-network, just real people reading aloud to each other on a regular basis. In part it is envy I feel. That and impatience with my self for gaining three pounds over the month (dam you with your home-made cookies and imported cheeses). There were eighty seven listings of upcoming events for this month on the state wide poetry calender when I checked. “Google-stalk” as I might, I could not find one prose reading.
I offer a call to action to writers of prose, flash fiction authors especially, since our work lends itself so well to being read aloud, to promote a local reading series. Use any means available to get out the word. Flash Mob Flash Fiction? Ask your local book store or cafe which evening of the week is totally dead and If you were to bring in at least five friends who might, just might buy something could you have ninety minutes for a monthly short fiction extravaganza? Make it a contest, tell people lies, include yodeling or look-alike contests if that helps. Younger crowds seem to love break-up stories, worst boyfriend/girlfriend stories. Just do not make it sound like school. For an older crowd try memories, reminiscences,- finding god while walking on the beach is always popular – (did he wash up?). Make it themed! Let’s post our posters and fly our flyers. Local direct action is what we need to do.
There are a couple of poets in my area who write pretty good short fiction, they just have the punctuation all wrong and think it is poetry. Maybe we can rope them into it as well.
Peace – Doug Mathewson