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Free Verse

April 13, 2001

Extra! Extra! Free verse at the library!

You might also get blank verse, and rhymed verse, and so on. The point is, it’s free. The library will host “Poetry on a Platter: a feast of poems” in collaboration with many others. Read on.

Two accomplished and nationally known poets, David Lee of Utah and Primus St. John of Oregon, will read and discuss poetry for two nights in Salida. The first night will be Monday, April 23, at 7:00 p.m. at Bongo Billy’s Salida Cafe. The second night will be Tuesday, April 24, at 7:00 p.m. at Salida Regional Library. Then, they go to Montrose.

The programs are free and open to all, but if you pre-register, you will receive a free copy of a book by each author, while supplies last. I encourage you to do this and to read the poetry before attending. I think it will add to your appreciation of the readings and discussions.

If you attended the successful “Sparrows” poetry festival organized by Jude Janett this winter, you’ll already know how enjoyable such nights can be. If you missed that, then by all means catch one of these.

The readings by Lee and St. John will follow a half-hour of “open mic” for willing poets.
I’m reminded of the “Beavis and Butthead” episode in which Beavis drinks too much sugared coffee and becomes the star of the open mic at a beatnik coffeehouse. If this is the kind of encouragement you’ll need, consider attending the Monday night reading at Bongo Billy’s coffee emporium.

I shall drop a name to promote these poetry nights … Kent Haruf, author of the bestselling “Plainsong,” became rather enthused upon hearing about the event. He thinks David Lee might be the best performing poet around, and he said that Lee’s reading of one of his pig poems nearly moved him to tears. Really.

He didn’t know Primus St. John, but I’m intrigued by Primus’s bio, which includes “laborer, gambler, and civil servant” — reason enough to become a poet. Also, in the spirit of last week’s article about spelling and typography, I’ll note that St. John’s book “Communion” is set in a font that includes the loveliest italic ligatures gracefully joining, for example, the “st” in such words as start and last and the “ct” in effects.

David Lee and Primus St. John have performed together before. You will hear two intelligent, thoughtful poets who are polished readers and accustomed to working together. That is, you will hear pros. Hmm.

It’s fascinating how these events come together. First, thank you to Tania Hajjar of Montrose Library District and Kathy Berg of Salida Regional Library.

Our immediate sponsors are Copper Canyon Press, which publishes both poets; two Chaffee County groups, The Writers’ Exchange and The Shavano Poets; the Friends of the Montrose Library; and your Salida Regional Library. Obviously, we have the cooperation of Bongo Billy’s Salida Cafe. The poster was designed by Montrose High School students.

But there’s more. A large part of the funding comes by way of the “Live @ your library” program through the American Library Association, which received major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The poets will also be working with several literature classes at Salida High School.

Mark your calendars, or put a Sticky Note in an appropriate place — just remember to enjoy “Poetry on a Platter.”

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