Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Splendid Wake #3: thoughts, comments, reactions

I think this was our most successful Wake!
—It was well illustrated with visual and audio elements so that it moved along fluidly and excitingly.
—Participants for the most part stuck to their timeframes achieving overall the perfect use of the time and the breathing room for audience to ask questions and make comments.
—Having a lively moderator like the incomparable Regie Cabico glued the parts together and kept the action moving forward.
—The introduction by the Gelman Librarian Chief Geneva Henry set the tone for success in every way. I valued every word she spoke and I was thankful she took time from her family to be with us.
—The paper program booklet turned out beautiful and I found it so helpful in following the live proceedings matched to the celebration of our departed ones.
—Did anyone miss refreshments? Not me! There was so much food for thought, I felt well nourished!

Special shout outs to Jennifer King for making the logistics of all this work so well and let’s keep fingers crossed that we get a good video. The audiovisual support was awesome.

To Holly Bass for getting off a plane from South Africa day of the Wake 3 to participate!

To Toni Asante Lightfoot for driving from Chicago to be present!

To Grace Cavalieri for helping make Miller Newman’s presentation extremely real by getting May Miller’s voice in the room.

To Miller Newman for bringing so many of May Miller’s family into the room.

To Sunil Freeman for sitting as timekeeper.

I feel I learned a lot from these presentations:

Georgia Douglas Johnson and the Saturday Nighters

While I have actually walked with Kim Roberts to Georgia Douglas Johnson’s house at 1461 S Street NW, I felt Wake #3 gave a new context to the importance of those gatherings that included Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and more. What I didn’t realize that May Miller and her father Kelly Miller also attended those gatherings. I also feel that the rigor Johnson imposed on that gathering was quite interesting, especially in light of our closing group The Modern Urban Griots and the standards set for themselves as explained by Toni Asante Lightfoot

May Miller

Although I knew May Miller, I never realized how active she was in playwriting and how important playwriting was to the Modern Urban Griots. I was thoroughly delighted to hear May’s voice reading her poems.  May also imposed a rigor on her work and the work of others.

The Federal Poets

I was really taken with the history of the Federal Poets and how it began with poets working in non-bookish departments of government as well as the fact that May Miller participated in this group. Like the workshop born from the University of Maryland “Poetry and the National Conscience” conference, here and continuing today poets who did not or do not know each other came together to work on their poetry which in my mind is a big risk.

Poetry Workshop Born During “Poetry and the National Conscience” Conferences

When this workshop was discussed in the Splendid Wake steering committee planning session, I had no idea that this workshop that included poets of national standing was associated with a University of Maryland conference organized by Rod Jellema. I was a student at the U MD during the time that conference was developed and it was at U MD where I first heard Linda Pastan read her poetry and hear her talk about how she was getting it published in magazines that were not necessarily literary magazines. I feel like there is more to learn about that U MD conference which brought together such poets as Linda Pastan, Siv Cedering Fox, Primus St. John, Roland Flint, Myra Sklarew, Ann Darr, Rod Jellema and others. Loved hearing about their rules too – if you didn’t write a new poem, you had to wait to attend.

The Modern Urban Griots
I had not known that OPP (other people’s poetry) came from the Modern Urban Griots. I had heard Holly Bass refer to that term and enact that principal. I knew about the Griots but I somehow never managed to hear them perform together so what a pleasure to get some of their history and to see them interact.

I also want to say that for a day that suffered daunting weather early in the day, we got a great turnout that filled the room quite comfortably.  I was also interested to learn (because I asked) that there were a lot of folks in the room who belonged to poetry workshops.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to all of YOU who did al the work in the trenches.
    the night best summed up by a young man (a non poet) who drove me to DC , who said "This is keeping poetry and history alive." I said "Without a trace books &documents, we have no civilization". I do hope I can get to town to be of more help in the future