Open Words

Enjoyed reading for the first time at the Open Words poetry reading I wrote about for the newspaper back in May. Located at the Ironbark Ciderworks in Claremont, this open mic reading occurs on the first Sunday of each month.

1420 N Claremont Blvd Ste 107B, Claremont, CA 

Mari (pronounced like Marie) Werner and Terry Wilhelm organize the reading. One of them typically starts the evening to warm up the crowd and the other closes the reading.

Terry Wilhelm opening July’s reading
Iron Bark’s Event Calendar

I arrived about ten minutes before the reading began and was about the eighth reader to sign-in. The dozen or so readers for the evening showed a wide array of comfort and skill. The audience facing the microphone and the general customers were audibly receptive to all. It’s a great venue for both the novice and seasoned poet to read.

Me (David Stone) reading “Earthquake at Taco Bell,” written in response to the Ridgefield Earthquake which recently occurred on July 5, 2019
Mari Werner read an engaging prose piece about the tragic loss of trees at her former home to close the reading.

Ironbark provides a vivid, artistic environment for a poetry reading. The staff were friendly and helpful (I think one of the staff was even a reader), but not obtrusive. A teetotaler like myself felt no pressure to drink. Other readers shared how much they enjoyed the fermented cider offerings. I only wished Ironbark sold food as well as beverages.

Retro decor really pops!

After the reading, the closing host encourages the audience to share news of upcoming local poetry readings and publishing opportunities. Mari noted Karen Maya-Greenbaum in the audience and suggested the Fourth Sundays Poetry Readings at the Claremont public library. Victoria Waddle, Managing Editor of Inlandia: A Literary Journey, encouraged the readers to submit to the adult edition of the online journal before the August 31st deadline.

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Inlandia Literary Journeys Column on Claremont Poetry Readings

My latest column for the Southern California News Group highlights the Open Words and Fourth Sundays poetry readings in Claremont. The column ran in the Sunday, May 12, 2019 editions of The Inland Valley Bulletin, The Press-Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts, and The Sun.

“To hear the diverse voices of Southern California’s poets and beyond, head to Claremont, a town that values poetry.”

I never know how the editors of the various papers will title or illustrate my columns. This column ran with the same title in all four papers, but with variations in the number and color of the photos.

Riding the Flexible Flyer

Riding the Flexible FlyerTuesday, June 19th may have been a typical hot day in Riverside, but I escaped the heat with over twenty of Celena Diana Bumpus’s poetry students and guests at the second reading in the Tuesday Literary Series at the Janet Goeske Center in Riverside, California.

Ms. Bumpus leads a highly engaged group at the Goeske Center for an hour-and-a-half long workshop each Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:30, one of the Center’s many free lifelong learning options.

I shared forty short poems from my current manuscript, including “Riding the Flexible Flyer,” which tells the story of a memorable childhood sled ride.  You can see my splayed hands and bent knees in the photo above as I describe the launch of my sled.  Nothing like a fanciful winter poem and a well-airconditioned room to help one forget the wilting temperatures outside.

My poems explore nature, time, and family relationships with images from my rural childhood in Northeastern Pennsylvania and from Southern California’s Inland Empire where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years.

After reading I enjoyed conversation with the group about my poems and the craft of writing.

I look forward to hearing Michelle Gonzalez read on July 10 at the third presentation in the Tuesday Literary Series organized by Bumpus’s Islands for Writing Publishing. Tim Hatch will read on August 7.

 

 

2017 Writing from Inlandia Reading

Since my plans to travel this weekend had only recently changed and I had not signed up to read, I went to the reading for the 2017 Writing from Inlandia today to listen to other local writers and not to read myself.  However, just as the last scheduled reader was preparing to read, I was urged to follow her at the podium.

I shared three of the five poems I have in this new anthology:

Standing Ground

Rest in the Grove

Hope

Two Hollows on a Hill

At Last a Black Lily

“Birdie, birdie, birdie, / calls the cardinal,” I chirped out as I began “Standing Ground,” which features the territorial calls of a cardinal perched above a hanging carcass.  My mother loved cardinals.  She would have hated this poem.  “Why write about such a gruesome scene?” she would have said, but she was not there.  She and my father were interred at Hickory Grove Cemetery just two weeks ago.  My mother passed early in January and my father less than a year earlier.

I struggled to lift my eyes to face the audience.  Maintaining periodic eye contact while reading is a part of my daily routine.  I’m a teacher.  But I found myself desperately struggling to maintain composure as I thought of my parents.

As I read the dedication, “for Benjamin Mileham Stone,” I felt my voice begin to waver.  I came close to crying, but made it through the poem. “Rest in the Grove.”

I hadn’t introduced the poem, but after a deep breath at its end, I shared about the recent loss of my parents, feeling a need to explain my quavering.  The compassionate faces I saw in the audience, many who I have known for years now, steadied my nerves and voice as I read through the four stanzas of “At Last a Black Lily,” which reflects on the death of a raven from the West Nile virus.    Rest and beauty came for the bird in my poem as courage and peace came for me.  I am grateful for the community of writers I’ve come to know through the programs of the Inlandia Institute.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Up Communication

I just finished reading Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air:  Two Cultures, Two Wings:  A Memoir.  Engle magically describes her childhood and early teen years as she travels between California and Cuba just before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In light of the current attack on media, I was heartened by the closing lines of her poem “Secret Languages”:

“Right wing or left wing, tyrants always

try to control communication.

They always

fail.”

 

Charlotte Davidson’s March 2nd column in The Press Enterprise, “Get busy writing if you dislike today’s political situation,” also gave me courage to continue to write.

Whatever one’s perspective in these fast-moving tumultuous times, the opportunities to make or to record history present themselves daily.  I need to write more.  Thank you, Margarita and Charlotte, for reminding me of the pendulum swings of history and the importance of communication.

2016 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival

San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival 2016

I will be reading at the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival as one of Inlandia Institute’s featured readers. Poet Brutus Cheiftain will emcee the 12:30-1:30 Inlandia Presents segment on Saturday, February 20.  I will be reading with fellow Inlandia A Literary Journey contributor James Ducat and 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Prize winners Angela Ina Penaredondo and Kenji Liu.

Fear, Hope, and Flight

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Shortly after two this afternoon, her feet planted firmly on the floor of the Ontario Museum of History and Art, Nikia Chaney did more than walk the talk, she took flight and brought a room full of writers with her.

Nikia Chaney

Nikia Chaney (photo by Cindy Rinne)

Chaney captivated the four tables full of workshop participants as she opened with the recitation of one of her own poems. In her rich alto voice, she pondered the removal of her wings. Far from fanciful, her words tapped into deep human fears and desires.

Waving off applause and finger snaps, saying we needed to move quickly with so many participants, Chaney quickly sought volunteers to read each of the three poems she had included on a handout: Ed Roberson’s “Here,” Langston Hughes’ “Dreams,” and Maya Angelou’s “Touched by an Angel.” She asked the participants to question: What do you fear? Why do you hope? What does it mean to fly?

Marsha Schuh

Marsha Schuh, workshop participant

Chaney gave ten minutes to write on each question. She encouraged the participants to write prose or poetry, whichever they would like. She had planned for the group to break for inspiration from the “Black Wings:American Dreams of Flight” exhibit on display at the museum through March 8th, but the number of participants prohibited it.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants

When thirty minutes had passed, the sharing began. Chaney encouraged initial praise and then constructive criticism. The group needed little prodding. Almost entirely women, they were highly affirming. Each participant had the opportunity to read.

Chaney saved here friend Ginger to close. With only five minutes remaining, Ginger dazzled the group with her spoken word performance.

Ginger

Ginger

In two hours, the group metaphorically took flight on more than twenty journeys from fear to hope and left with their own new creations.

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