Our paths first met at open mic night at Beanstreet café during a time of national crisis and local transition. The aftermath of 9/11 brought a lot of poets and singer songwriters to open mics for reasons of catharsis and later to protest.
But Barbie Angell brought something different to the Beanstreet musicians and poets. Part Dorothy Parker, part Shel Silverstein, Barbie Angell became a regular favorite of scene and a poetic force.
We first met around the time my book Late Night Writing was published. I was working hard on new material and trying it out on the open mic crowd. We exchanged a few conversations and notes at that time and then we lost track of each other for a couple years.
Beanstreet dramatically closed. The poetry scene was adrift for awhile. Eventually the Courtyard Gallery off Walnut Street filled the space. And that is where Barbie and I reconnected. From those late nights at the Courtyard Gallery open mics until my departure from Asheville, we spent a lot of time sharing poetry, discussing literary world domination, challenging and encouraging each other about all things regarding a poets life.
Roasting Questions, her collection of poems and illustrations, was released a few years ago. We talked much about that publication and the supporting book tour.
Though our poetic styles were different we still sought to encourage one another toward success.
There was one night I remember in particular. Two different events were going on in Asheville and she was to read poetry at one while I read at another. She picked me up at my house, drove downtown, and after the separate events we met up at Sazerac for refreshments. We talked about the night’s events, avoided how jealous we were of the others’ success and then she drove me back home. That is what friends do.
That is a glimpse into the story behind this short poem. With friends like Barbie, you have the strength to walk further, to try harder, and to be better.
Late Night Writing is now in its third printing and the new edition features a foreword by the poet Pasckie Pascua. Copies of Late Night Writing will be available the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is this weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Rhode Center for The Arts. A special book fair price makes it very affordable to purchase and I will personally sign your copy (and if you ask nicely, I may even add a quick drawing/sketch).
After nearly a decade since it was published, Late Night Writing is now available as an ebook for $1.99 at Amazon.com. The ebook features some new material — a Foreword by journeyman journalist/editor, poet, and founder of The Indie, Pasckie Pascua, an Introduction and an epigraph (of sorts).
Late Night Writing is available as a Kindle ebook, and that means you should be able to read it on all Kindle devices as well as iPhone and iPad devices. For those who do not have an ereader or tablet, Amazon has an app you can download that will allow you to read ebooks from your desktop or laptop computer.
Last month I re-read Late Night Writing and found, in retrospect, that reminds me of something Thomas Merton once wrote. I am interested to learn what you think of the collection of poems. Please leave your comments below or feel free to leave a starred review on the ebook’s Amazon page. Thanks for your support!
Late Night Writing
Paperback, 48 pgs,
$8.00 USD, Free shipping.
Update: Sold Out.
Last year, about this time, I contributed to “Resonance” Art Opening/Multimedia Performance. The Grey Eagle Tavern and Music Hall hosted the event. I read some of my new poems at the time and then Philip (guitarist) and Julie (rock vocalist) joined me with a music/performance set based on my book Late Night Writing. Julie contributed an original song to the set while Philip added an original soundtrack. The collaboration between the three of us was inspiring (to me at least). It was kind of weird hearing Julie sing my poems “Fragile” and “Driftwood” back to me and to the audience. In a way it was a relief to hear someone else claim them, own the words, project the ideas. I miss that. There are a few live bootleg recordings of the three or four gigs we did together. Maybe when I find some server space, I’ll offer them as free downloads.
Three paintings represented me at “Resonance” Art Opening/Multimedia Performance. “Fragile,” named after the poem I wrote, was painted last summer. Previously, I had done a series of four paintings inspired by the poet Kahlil Gibran (which was part of the 2003 “Resonance” art show) with bright, dramatic abstractions using a simple palette of red, yellow and black. With “Fragile,” the colors deepened in order to create a stark, lyrical image. A young poet from South Carolina once confessed he didn’t particularly get into modern art, but he liked “Fragile” because it seemed like a place he would like to visit. The poem I wrote that inspires this work includes these lines: “I am naked/ When truth strips me/ Of a lie.” And later: “I am reborn/ When the old shattered remains/ swept away, replaced with/ a new vessel to contain my soul.”
Among The Myrtle
“Among The Myrtle,” named after a passage from the book of Zechariah, was also painted last summer. Most people who view this painting don’t know the passage that inspires this work. The passage reads:
“In a vision during the night, I saw a man sitting on a red horse that was standing among some myrtle trees in a small valley… I asked the angel who was talking with me, ‘My lord, what are all those horses for?’ ‘I will show you,’ the angel replied. So the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, ‘They are the ones the LORD has sent out to patrol the earth.’ Then the other riders reported to the angel of the LORD, who was standing among the myrtle trees, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and the whole earth is at peace.’
Again, as with the painting “Fragile,” I attempt to present a sparse place for the eye and the mind to roam–a place someone would like to sit and rest and visit often. In a way, I was trying to create a sanctuary were “the whole earth is at peace.”
My son, who was two at the time, painted along side me. We would paint outside, on the front deck on Saturday mornings. It became a weekend ritual. At the time he merely enjoyed mixing the colors on an old canvas I had forsaken. He named one dinosaur and the next weekend he would paint over dinosaur and call it puppy. During the winter we stopped the outdoor painting sessions and he began working with pencil and paper. By springtime he graduated to markers. As spring gave way to summer he had developed a curious visual language that inspired me. He began drawing people with arms and legs that didn’t quite fit and dots and lines representing eyes. The smile became his creative signature–it sliced across the heads as if to say “it is what it is.”
One Saturday, after we resumed our painting ritual, I created “I’m Putting on My Socks” in honor of his drawings. Three other paintings were created that day (which I may post at a later date) and a series of twelve drawings. He told me I needed more gray. I told him gray was not a color I liked to use because it’s too bland. He insisted by adding a few strokes of his own. After moving him back to his canvas, I conceded. Gray became the visual language that supported the red, black, copper and white motifs.
I don’t know if there will be a “Resonance” Art Performance this year. Whether collaborating with adults or children, an artist needs support in order to grow. Hearing a poem or viewing a painting from another perspective opens up a world of opportunity. Irving Stone mused that “Art’s a staple. Like bread or wine or a warm coat in winter… Man’s spirit grows hungry for art in the same way his stomach growls for food.” For those who have supported my growling stomach, I thank you.