Charles Bernstein and the terrific people at Kelly Writers House at UPENN invited me to read and chat in Philadelphia in April. It was the perfect thing to do during April is Poetry Month. I like Philadelphia. I’ve encounter interesting art exhibitions, vistas and hang with lovely people like Liz Abrams-Morley a fellow poet. We went to an installation years ago at the Eastern State Penitiary, one of America’s gifts to world culture, i. e. prison design. The cells of this prison visited by dignitaries in the 19th century set the standards for solitary confinement. The installations were amazing and that is when I discovered the powerful work of Homer Jackson, a Philadelphia-based artist and activist.
So this April I headed to Philadelphia early Thursday morning April 21 on the Amtrak and when I went in search of the cafe car, I ran into Latasha N. Diggs! She too, was on her way to Philly to perform. I felt like a real touring professional-that’s the first time I ran into a fellow poet/writer/perfomer. She looked great.
It was a full day for me. First, Charles Bernstein’s class at UPENN. They had some very complicated questions which I answered during a radio recording for “Close Reading” http://jacket2.org/commentary/patricia-spears-jones-close-listening. Then later I joined Charles, Al Filreis, the KWH Faculty Director, and Yolanda Wisher in a discussion of Akilah Oliver’s poem “is you is or is you ain’t” for Poemtalk. Ms. Wisher is now the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia and she is brilliant, attractive alnd energetic. She’s going to do great things. It was a lively conversation about Oliver’s poem. It also showed how much she is missed given her untimely death.
Finally, I did a reading at the Kelly Writers House. Jessica Lowenthal and her crew were really helpful. And we had a good audience on a very powerful allergy hitting day! I gave one of my best readings because the audience truly listened. One woman came early and she seemed to have the best time. It feels like I left my voice in Philadelphia.
It is good to go out and read work to people who are interested but are for the most part strangers. Too often we really do preach to the choir. Our voices as poets need to reach as many listeners as we can. They are there and they offer us advice, support and surprising insight. My A Lucent Fire tour has been one of the best things I’ve ever arranged.
and yes, later we found that Prince has departed. So the radio played great music and on tv, images of the always fashion forward Prince multiplied. I wrote about his first major label album when I had a music column for Essence back in the 1980s and yes I loved what he was doing even then. He influenced my generation of poets and the subsequent ones. Thank you Prince, gylph
and all. Am sure Charles Bernstein agrees and if he doesn’t –well that’s my generation.