Local poetry groups offer support
April is National Poetry Month. According to the website of the Academy of American Poets, this now-annual event began in 1996 to “celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.” Since starting this blog last fall, I’ve come to understand just how extensive that culture is here in Hampton Roads.
Numerous poetry groups across our area, formal and informal, express their love of the genre through performing at open-mic nights and participating in clubs and organizations that foster the development of poets at all levels. Music and Poetry Night is one such group. Geared for ages 12 through 21, the group meets monthly to share their work and to encourage each other in their journey to becoming spoken-word artists. Occasionally they perform at the center or in the community as well.
I had the opportunity several weeks ago to chat with the “kids” about writing in general and to listen as they performed their latest pieces. I was impressed with not only the maturity of what I heard, but with their eagerness to learn and their determination to push through their fears to develop their craft.
The group meets the third Thursday of each month at the Westhampton Community Center, 1638 Briarfield Road in Hampton. Meetings begin at 6:45 p.m. and end around 8:30. Participation is free but limited to the young adult age range. Visitors of all ages are welcomed and encouraged!
Interested in joining a group, or stopping by an open-mic night to hear local spoken-word artists in action? You might want to start with The Poetry Society of Virginia. According to its website: “ The Poetry Society of Virginia is a non-profit membership organization that promotes poetry through monthly open mics, workshops, annual adult and student contests, a monthly calendar of events, monthly newsletter, collaborations with other artists, poetry-in-the-schools program, speakers on the craft of poetry, and is involved with the process for selection of State Poet Laureate. We welcome all poets and lovers of poetry.”
Founded in 1923 at the College of William and Mary, the organization is broken down into five geographic regions across the commonwealth, each with its own vice president. Regional organizations host periodic meetings that might include open member readings, along with a program and/or guest reader. Dues begin at $30 per year for a basic one-year membership. Special rates are offered for student and classroom memberships as well as lifetime memberships. Membership covers all family members at a single address and includes a subscription to the society’s newsletter, “A Common Wealth of Poetry,” published six times a year.
The society’s Annual Festival, cosponsored by the Williamsburg Regional Library, is scheduled for May 17-19 at the Williamsburg Library and the James City County Library. Guest speakers are Lee Alexander (reading and workshop, "Travels Near and Far: The Art of Place Poem"), Ruth Forman (workshop, "FLOW: Working with Qi Gong to Open the Voice"), Lesley Lee Francis (talk, "Elinor and Robert Frost: Education by Poetry"), Henry Hart (workshop, "Writing About Personal Crisis: With Special Attention to Robert Frost"), and Kevin Hart (reading and seminar, "An Introduction to Robert Gray: Buddhism and Modern Poetry. For additional details, go to http://www.poetrysocietyofvirginia.org and scroll down.
Want more information about membership? Go to the website or contact membership chair Charles Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Events Fill the Poetry Calendar
To get yourself in the mood for National Poetry Month, you might want to visit one or more of the many local poetry events, like these:
Saturday Poetry Series of Williamsburg
1st Saturday of every month, September through June
Presentation of works by 5 or 6 poets each month
When? 11 a.m. to noon
Where? Williamsburg-James City County Library at Norge
Directions: Take I-64 toward Williamsburg; Take Exit 231A (Croaker Road toward Norge); Go ½ mile, the library is on the left.
For information, contact Ed Lull at email@example.com
Poetry at the Crossing – Williamsburg
3rd Thursday of every month
7 to 9 p.m.
Enjoy readings by local poets. Co-hosted by Serena Fusek, Mary Haines and Virginia’s Poet Laureate Sofia Starnes.
For information, call M. Haines (757-220-2654), or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Williamsburg Crossing Shopping Center at the intersection of Highways 199 and 5.
Open Mic Poetry
4th Friday of every month
Barnes and Noble, 12170 Jefferson Ave., Newport News
7 to 9 p.m.
Contact Hollis Pruitt at 249-2488 for details.
For young poets
Young Poets Love Poetry Movement
Readings and learning for ages 12 through 21
For information on regular meetings, see story above
The group's annual “Poetry Slam” is on the schedule for Sat., April 13, beginning 6 p.m. There is a $5 fee to participate, and prizes will be awarded. Contact Marie St. Claire at email@example.com for information.
Hampton Roads Youth Poets
Are you a teen poet (13 through 19)? Do you want a chance to represent Hampton Roads at the Brave New Voices in Chicago this summer (as seen on HBO)? Here’s your chance to bring your best and compete!
Preliminary slam: Sat., March 30th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the VA Museum Of Contemporary Art, 2200 Parks Ave., Virginia Beach.
Peninsula qualifying round: Sat., April 20th, 5 to 7 p.m., at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, 2410 Wickham Ave., Newport News. Go to facebook.com/events/145206502304716 for more information.
Grand Slam: TBD