Last week featured two solid poetry events in the Scranton area that I’ll recap quick. I hope this is the start of more poetry-oriented events coming to this area.
First, Carolyn Forché came to the University Scranton on Wednesday evening to deliver a lecture about Poetry of Witness. She also read some poems from her second book, The County Between Us, which was published in 1981 with the help of Margaret Atwood. The book deals with her time spent in El Salvador during the Salvadoran Civil War, so the poems fit in with the lecture she gave on Poetry of Witness. I don’t want to recap the whole lecture, but I do want to point out some points I found interesting. First, I agree with her statement that when poets sit down and immediately say they’re going to write a political poem or poem with a message, it never turns out that well. Poetry of Witness personalizes the political and focuses on what the poet experienced. So, for instance, The Country Between Us contains poems describing some of the atrocities Forché witnessed in El Salvador. They are personalized, first-hand accounts.
She was also optimistic about the opportunities for social change, due to social media. She pointed to Egypt as an example, how those protests were organized using Twitter and Facebook. She also pointed out social media allows young people from all over the world to have a dialogue.
The second big poetry event that occurred this week was a Friday evening performance of Langston Hughes’ 12 moods for jazz entitled Go Ask Your Mama. This event, held at Lackawanna College’s Mellow Theater, featured a live reading of the 12 poems, mixed with jazz music and film from the civil rights movement. Great performance overall.
Finally, I want to mention that my poetry students from a workshop/class at the Vintage Theater will be reading their work this Wednesday, at 7 pm at the Vintage Theater (119 Penn Avenue). Admission is free, so stop by. Once this first workshop/class concludes, I will be teaching another one at the Vintage Theater, which will also be five weeks. This will most likely begin in May. The price will again be $75, capped at about 5 students. We hope to do a few more, though I’m not sure what my situation will be come this fall.