Just spent three days at the Spenard Jazz Festival, where I was
the “resident poet.” The festival was held at Organic Oasis…
“Original Music, Original Minds” (the slogan pointing out the fact that all the
work was original… no covers). The cost of the thing was $25, the first night
and $30 total (additional) for the next two full days. The gate brought in
several thousand—maybe $5000. There was merchandize – shirts, mouse pads,
magnets for the fridge. All the performers, myself included, split the proceeds
from the door.
jazz fest is in its second year. Last year it was held for just one day. It was
so successful that this year, it’s three. Yngvil Guttu (the organizer) got
support from the State Council on the Arts and the Nation Endowment for the
Arts. I’ll have to confirm that more precisely.
POETRY -- LIVE AND MOVING
Today, I woke up with the idea of a festival of poetry, called,
“Poetry -- Live and Moving.” A similar event… starting with one day, building
to more than that if it were successful. “Poetry – Live and Moving” could
follow the same path – gaining support via grants and splitting the door among
Twice, I performed a prepared group of poems backed up by a jazz
band. The title of my set was “Eating Poetry” (from Mark
Strand, “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth, There is no happiness like
mine, I have been eating poetry.”)
For three days, I wrote poems on demand for $1. I did the
set the first night and on the closing night, I did it again, along with poems
I had written, on the fly, throughout the week-end.
I have posted some of the “fly” poems to a website. People gave me
topics to which I would write. They fell into three categories: babies (now and
future), people at the festival, like clarinet player, Carl, (“Such history,
your hot black stick, back to Benny Goodman and the Big Bands…”), and then
universal stuff – pleasure, breathing, oneness with the universe. Most
of the poems were short, a few were longer, with rhyme. The group of
poems on the web page were the ones I read closing night.
The writing quickly became serious stuff – one young man whispered
to me “I just turned twenty-two and the love of my life just told me she is
pregnant.” He said that his girlfriend is expecting his baby. She
is in Florida. He just came to Alaska, not yet knowing. He
didn’t say why he was here. They hadn’t decided what to do about this news. I
wrote a poem for him before I knew about any details about his life, but the
poem fit somehow. The last line was “Don’t take the long way. Don’t
take the long way. Home.” After he
left, I found, “Thanks, Sandy,” with a smiley face written in my notebook.
Another woman asked me to write for her first grandchild, expected
soon (in California). She said, “I will have them read it at the
baby shower, because I won’t be able to be there.” She told me this
before I wrote it. A little pressure but it’s pretty easy to hit the mark when
writing about babies. I wrote three baby poems.
Soon, I was reflecting: this is serious stuff. One
woman essentially dropped her identity/self into my hand and bought me a glass
of wine before I started. She did not throw it in my face when I was
I could see the impact… many times tears, smiles. Sometimes, “Wow,
are you clairvoyant or what?”
I want to think about organizing “Poetry: Live and Moving” -- to
support the art and the artists.