Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poetry Among Pros

A few days ago I attended a reading by two highly respected (among writer types) poets, at a cafe' in Brooklyn. Some of the faces I knew from their book covers or Facebook presence; some I had met in passing at other events; some I had known years before, as colleagues and co-readers, but had not seen for a long time. The hosts, also established poets, were friends. Very few of the thirty-odd people there were not accomplished, widely published poets.

This gathering represents one stratum of the poetry scene, at least on a night like this one. These are the people on the scene who live and derive a living from it: those who have taken years to study and master their craft, those who have worked hard at getting their work together and out, those who have sought and found jobs teaching creative writing at universities and in workshops around the country, those who talk to each other about the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference the way that families talk about their annual reunions. All were gathered to listen. Only a few read in the open mic afterwards, and then only a poem each. And all had come to hear one of the headliners sing with his band (He was actually very good).

Do these people set the standard for dedication to poetry? Are they those whom others on many scenes across the nation aspire to be? Is this the life?

The Book and the Film

I am beginning to understand that Virtue at the Coffeehouse will have to be a film as well as a written text. There's just no way around it. I anticipate meeting a lot of compelling figures as I travel from town to town in search of poets, their work, and their stories. I have $3000 in grant money now, and should I be lucky enough to win this year's Scholar on Campus award from my school, New York City College of Technology, I would have another $3000. This money would pay for a lot of my travel. How to film?, then, would be the question.

Well, I know a few things. I have a camcorder. I have a video phone. I have an old Mac. I have editing software. With a little money from Kickstarter, I could add to the basic equipment, learn a little more about editing, and pull it off. I'm not sure where Virtue could or would ultimately show, but I also know this is why festivals exist.