This Sunday at the Malaprop’s cafe at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, join the following poets as they read from their recent books: Holly Iglesias (ANGLES OF APPROACH), Sebastian Matthews (MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS), and Katherine Soniat (THE SWING GIRL). More details here. Link.
It was truly an honor to be invited to read a few poems at this year’s Asheville Wordfest. When I received the invitation I thought it was a mistake. So, I direct messaged the director using Twitter saying: “my twitter acct is wonky today. i received something from you re: wordfest… how can i help?” Previously, I had helped with audio during a previous Wordfest featuring the poet Li-young Lee. She direct messaged me on Twitter with a note of confirmation. So, I began selecting poems for the event.
Since I haven’t read my poetry publicly in more than a year, I was a bit anxious about the invitation to read at this year’s Wordfest. Last year was a busy year of readings at bookstores,  a literary salon,  and a featured guest at the Mountain Xpress poetry show.  Then employment for me became tricky and I endured the challenges of a transition to a new job, lay off, unemployment, and another job transition with a three-hour round trip commute. I kept writing new poems, but the new out-of-state job prevented me from participating in the active literary scene here in Asheville.
There were more than a hundred new poems I wrote last year to consider for the Asheville Wordfest poetry reading. I selected four or five new poems, but I didn’t feel confident enough in their craftsmanship to read publicly. One manuscript I have been developing for awhile had the strongest work that best fit this year’s Wordfest theme, “HOME: Place and Planet.” I started it when I took a writing workshop taught by Ashveille Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, a few years ago.
Two practices help me decide what poems to read. First, it is my practice to put a poetry manuscript in a presentation book with sheet protectors. That way pages don’t fall to the floor during a reading. You can usually purchase presentation books of that nature at office supply stores. I select a variety of poems on various subjects or themes. Further, it is my practice at an actual poetry reading featuring multiple poets to listen closely to the other poets. While the reading takes place, I select poems that speak to other poets’ work as a way to have a literary conversation. So, I brought four working manuscripts hoping that I might find a poem that might play off a poem read by Ronald Reginald King, DeWayne Barton, and Katherine Soniat.
As I walked to the podium after a very generous introduction by Laura Hope-Gill, I still hadn’t decided what poem would complete my reading. I knew the poem I would lead off with and I knew the one to follow, but the third and final poems I hadn’t quite decided. Improvisation is something I am developing in public readings, because each night the audience is different, with individual needs, interests and mood. A bar room poem might work in one setting and audience, but not work another night with a different audience. So, after I clumsily introduced myself, I knew by the time I finished reading the second poem where the narrative of the poem selection would lead. For better or worse, the reading was videocast and a recording is available. Here’s a link to the video [link here].
When I sat down next to my wife after completing my reading, I noticed a couple mentions on Twitter regarding the live videocast. One person  tweeted, “Goosebumps: poem dedicated to Jenny.”
NOTES:  As a member of the Rooftop Poets, I read with Barbara Gravelle and Brian Sneeden at Accent on Books in February. Barbara Gravelle and I read at the May 2011 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café. That was my last public reading until last Friday night, May 4, 2012.  After a very successful book launch and poetry event, the Rooftop Poets presented Poet’s on the Roof: A Literary Salon.  The Mountain Xpress invited Brian Sneeden and myself to read on behalf of the Rooftop poets as featured poets at the 2011 Mountain Xpress Poetry Show  @anorawrites
It’s less than two hours before the event and I find myself pacing the house with loose leaf pages of poems wondering if I’ve chosen the correct poems for tonight. I’ve been preparing for tonight’s reading all week. Reading poems I’ve written (and avoiding making additional edits). Selecting the poems I plan to bring to tonight’s reading at The Altamont Theater. I’ll read at the Asheville Wordfest event Voices of the City alongside Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess. But I can’t help wonder, what do these fine poets do before a poetry reading? What rituals do they observe the day before an event like tonight?
“It’s a good time to come together at the table of poetry,” says Laura Hope-Gill, the director of Asheville Wordfest, in a recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times. I’m very excited to be part of the local Asheville poets who will be reading during the festival. I’m also excited to listen to the guest poets attending this year’s poetry festival. Some of the guests include Arthur Sze  (author of The Ginkgo Light, Archipelago and other books) and Matthew Shenoda (author of Somewhere Else and Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone of which A. Van Jordan writes, the poet “uses a quiet language to bring some of the most striking lyrical intensity.”).
This year’s Wordfest includes a memorial reading for poet Carol Novack. On a rainy evening last summer at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar was the last time I saw her. She was with friends and admirers reading selections from Giraffes in Hiding.
This morning I received an email from the director of Asheville Wordfest with the official schedule for the Asheville Wordfest 2012. It is listed below for those who have not received the schedule:
• 9-11 p.m.
Open mic hosted by Caleb Beissert. Vanuatu Kava Bar, 15 Eagle St.
• 7 p.m. “Poem-ing the 28801,”
with Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay at Vanuatu Kava Bar.
• Noon, informational luncheon with Lenoir Rhyne University graduate studies program director Paul Knott, who will talk about the Masters in Writing program. Chamber of Commerce building, 2nd floor, 36 Montford Ave. RSVP required to Sara Landry at 258-6136 or Sara.Landry@lr.edu.
• 5-7 p.m., MadHat Reception honoring Carol Novack. Refreshments.
• 7 p.m. “Voices of the City,”
Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matt Mulder, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess.
• 9 p.m. “An Evening of Translation,”
with Erik Bendix, Caleb Beissert, Thomas Rain Crowe, Nan Watkins and Luke Hankins.
• 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., “The Poets of Press 53,”
with Terri Kirby Erickson, Joseph Mills and Kathryn Kirkpatrick.
• 1-2 p.m. The Carol Novack Memorial Reading,
with Terese Svoboda, Marc Vincenz and Jeff Davis, Asheville Wordfest co-founder and host of Wordplay.
• 3 p.m. “Fixing to Tell About Jack,”
a celebration and benefit for Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, featuring storytellers Sheila Kay Adams, Gwenda Ledbetter, Vixi Jil Glen, David Novak, Connie Regan-Blake and Ted Hicks. $12; additional donations welcomed.
• 5:30-6:30 p.m.The Poets of the Asheville-Buncombe County Schools Poetry Slam.
• 7-9 p.m. “Our Honored Guests,”
with Sara Day Evans, LeAnne Howe, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Arthur Sze and Matthew Shenoda
• 10 p.m. until late. “Late Night Open Mic.”
• 10:30-11:30 p.m. “Children’s Poetry and Children’s Poems,” hosted by Barbie Angell..
• Noon-1 p.m. “Morning of Spirit,” with Tracey Schmidt and James Davis of Logosophia Books, Michael Ivey on guitar and Matthew Cox from Shantavaani on tablas and hand drums. An open mic will invite people to share their own spiritual poems.
• 1:30-2:30 p.m. “Voices of the City,” with April Fox, Eric Steineger, Lisa Sarasohn and Meta Commerce.
• 3 p.m., “Poetrio,” with Maureen Sherbody, Mark DeFoe and Jessie Carty. Malaprops Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St.
• 5 p.m. until whenever, “Poetic Wine-Down,” Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Grove Arcade.
NOTES:  “Asheville Wordfest celebrates poetry of all stripes, May 2-6”  The Poetry Foundations bio of Arthur Sze  Matthew Shenoda’s web site  Asheville Wordfest 2012
Asheville Wordfest 2012 presents Voices of the City and features several local poets. I’m honored listed among the following local poets: Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matthew Mulder and Roberto Hess.
I set up a Facebook page with more details. Friend me on Facebook to get an invitation to the event. If you’re not on Facebook, consider yourself invited to Asheville Wordfest’s Voices of the City.
This week the Juniper Bends reading series continues this Friday, February 10th, at 7:00 p.m. at Downtown Books and News. The event features readings by: Kate Zambreno, Katherine Soniat, Jesse Rice-Evans and Adam Jernigan. Visit the Facebook event page for more details. (link)
POETRIO reading/booksigning featuring Tony Abbott, Scott Owens, Katherine Soniat.
Sunday, November 6, 2011, 3:00 p.m.
55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801