Chera Hammons: Poet and Writer

"…a slow shutter on ambulation…"

Archive for July, 2014

Poetry on the Patio

I know I haven’t written a blog entry since February, but let’s pick up right where we left off– shall we? Like old friends. After the dismal failure of the poetry slam outing mentioned in an earlier post, my quest to enjoy and/or cultivate a more poetic atmosphere in my hometown seemed to be at a standstill. I couldn’t find any good outlets or any fellow poets or poetry appreciators anywhere. They seemed to all be hiding, scurrying about in the shadows at night like literate mice, leaving evidence of their existence tucked away in corners at the local library sales, where I would find their old marked-up poetry books and buy them for myself. Finally, in a burst of frustration, I told my husband, “What do I need to do to get some poetry going here? Stand on street corners and read Whitman through a bullhorn?” He indicated gently that doing so would be pretty extreme and suggested that I try to arrange something with the Amarillo Botanical Gardens instead. I know and like the director, whom I worked with at a previous employer’s, so I already had an “in.” I outlined an hour-long event at which I would pick 21 poems from classic and contemporary poets, aligned with a common theme. I intended for each poem to have a different reader, so I would need 21 volunteers from the community. When I approached Kevin, the director, with my ideas, he said it sounded like a good experiment, and then asked if I represented an organization. Things would have been much easier if I had. For example, I couldn’t get food donated without 501( c)(3) status, so I ended up bumming my mother-in-law’s Sam’s card to get veggie trays, cheese cubes, watermelon, and bottled water in bulk for the event. I also organized the event single-handedly, which took several weeks of constant work, all told.  It looked a bit scary there for a while. However, the graphic design, poem-picking, reader-asking, program-making, food-getting, etc. all somehow miraculously fell into place, and the event turned out to be really inspiring. I began with an introduction touching on why poetry is so important to us as people, then between each reader, I introduced the next reader and provided what I thought were cool little insights about the poems (for example, that Emily Dickinson’s work can be sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace”). I had no idea if the format would work, but it seemed to flow really well.

Poetry on the Patio Program

Poetry on the Patio Program – Click for Larger Size

As you can see from the program, I did not end up finding my 21 readers. Instead, I had 7 readers who read 3 poems each– but holy smokes, were they amazing! I started by asking my friends in the local art and theater communities to read, and they asked their friends. The readers made the event a big success. Whenever I’ve moderated readings in the past, I’ve been far too anxious to enjoy the readings themselves. This time– whether because of the beautiful summer evening setting, the apparent enjoyment of the audience, or just the way the readers carried me into the poems as a listener– I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I enjoyed myself so much that I feel like I threw the thing just for me– when really, I did it to try to feel out my community and get something going that many might appreciate. The botanical gardens has asked me to do four of these events per year now (one for each season), but alas! With working full time, I don’t see how I’d be able to do so without experiencing some sort of nervous breakdown. I will throw another one, though. Soon, I hope. Stay posted, Amarillo!

Poetry on the Patio setting

Poetry and flowers… Yay!

And fellow poets out there in isolation, if you would like tips on putting something like this together yourselves, please comment or email any questions. I would be more than happy to  help spread the poetry. Happy writing!

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