Why Tour With Poetry?
Poetry is for life. And at Tweetspeak, we’re committed to help that happen more and more, in a framework that includes 5 vital arenas. The idea of a traveling Mischief Café is part of the “bring poetry home” effort listed among the full five, each of which we’re interested in highlighting and cultivating over time.
The 11-Day Mischief Café Tour Concludes in Nebraska
When I was packing up from the Colorado Café, Monica Sharman brought out an extra jar of honey butter. “Give this to the host of the Nebraska café, please?” Teacher Amy Johnson-Smith watched what was happening and marveled, “I love how you’re threading this together from place to place, and just the whole thing.”
That’s what tea, toast, poetry, and many great people can accomplish. A threading together, over miles. It’s something deep, this poetry-on-the-road and poetry-at-home dream.
It is also hard to capture. So, this morning I’ve been thinking about two lines from the “Maria” song in our new Make Me Laugh playlist: “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” and “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”
I can’t really catch the cloud, nor hold the moonbeam, that is the Mischief Café.
After all, how can a person truly communicate what I heard as a favorite memory from more than one Nebraska participant? Laughter, laughter, laughter.
And how do you explain the poignancy of one person reading “I learn by going where I have to go” (from Roethke) and really cherishing it deep down—while also exploring how the very same poem left another person feeling outside of things? “You don’t have to like the poem, ” she was quietly permitted.
Language is particular. Culture, particular. Even how we hold our teacups—particular. Says Michelle DeRusha, host of the café, “I sip from a delicate floral teacup, my grandmother’s, the gold-tipped handle pinched between my thumb and forefinger. The eight of us all sip differently.”
How do we love, across gaps and miles, and different ways of holding our teacups? Sometimes it is a matter of looking and listening with our hearts and appreciating what resonates with someone else, even if it’s not “our thing.” Sometimes it’s a shift inside us. An awakening. A snap, snap (ask Kristen for the details on this hilarious riff that arose during the Nebraska café).
Where love is involved, there can also be hilarity—as when one participant who shall remain unnamed fell for one of our poets who shall remain unnamed. (We are predicting a marriage and a love child ;-). You could say there was a poetry-Cupid bolt of lightning (or maybe a boom of thunder) that got delivered via poem.
The Lincoln, Nebraska café brought everything together. From each person’s tea cup (they brought their own!), to a young boy making a haiku-reading appearance, from Ben’s father (grandmother?) at the door, to a husband reciting Emily Dickinson all day before the gathering even began. There were serious questions: What is poetry? Is Shel Silverstein poetry? How about Dr. Seuss? What makes a good poem? Why do people who like poetry not actually seek it out?
And a question-declaration memory shared, in regards to a Langston Hughes poem: “This is poetry? I’ve been deprived!”
Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
There were so many things to be thankful for. Antique glass perfume mischief, from a mother dearly remembered. The Hughes poem, shared through the deep and beautiful voice of Deidra. The “red plate piled high with toast, buttered and browned with sugar–salty bite of Asiago tinged with sweet, ” as Michelle says. And, Kristen notes, “I am so thankful I got to spend such a cozy evening with such warm friends, some old and some new. My eyes have been opened to poetry as a way to channel feelings, to dig deep. I even wrote a poem on Sunday!” And of course, the laughter.
“Lincoln has my heart, ” I told a few people afterwards. It’s true. And the Barnes and Noble the next day also had something to do with that…
Barnes & Noble Impromptu Café
It hadn’t been planned. But then plans changed. And I ended up having the chance to go to Barnes and Noble the next day, to hear Michelle do a book talk. What a delight it was to see surprised faces (You came?!) and be introduced to more of Michelle’s friends.
Explanations were made, memories of the previous night shared, and before I knew it another café had arisen, right in the B&N plush toy section.
Kori was drawn to Glynn’s work poems. Aimee read Resolutions (sense a pattern on this trip?). When it was time to go, Kori commented, “This was an amazing conversation.”
Poetry tapping its words into thoughts. Poetry traveling. Poetry talking. Amazing, indeed.
Featured photo by Martinak15, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post and post photos by L.L. Barkat.
Make your own Mischief Café? Bring poetry home (or to a surprising place near you).
- Where Poetry Lives—Interview with Beekeeper & Poet Sara Eddy - August 16, 2022
- Tell the Bees: A Little Chat Highlight - August 9, 2022
- Tell the Bees—Event This Friday, August 5 + Prompt! - July 11, 2022
Katie Andraski says
I am impressed by this work you’re doing, that you’ve thought up a way to promote poetry and then gone and done it. When I was younger and loved poetry and wanted to promote it, I know I would have never stepped out into a wonderfully creative idea as this. (My idea was to combine poetry readings and rock and roll concerts! LOL!) Your quiet persistence on behalf of this art is pretty amazing. Thank you for sharing this trip with us.
L. L. Barkat says
Thank you Katie. I’m not really a traveler, believe it or not, so this is a special effort for poetry 🙂 But so worth it.
Ann Kroeker says
Oh, come my way, please? Maybe in spring, when winter drips away and life seems brighter (and I can find someone to host).
L. L. Barkat says
Of course you know I would love that. Hosts can be found, as I’ve learned 🙂 It might happen in a bookstore or something, too. Never know. 🙂
Marcy Terwilliger says
Oh, the delicate teacups and saucers in an array of pastel colors look so pretty. I would have picked the pink one with the roses on it. What gave me a smile was the remark about how we each hold our cups in a different way. That calls for a poem I think. Travel can be a delight but coming home is always where the heart yearns to be.
Tania Runyan says
Looks warm, sweet, fun, glorious. Missed you all.
Megan Willome says
This is the one I wanted to go to because it was at Michelle’s, and Deidra was there!
Maureen Doallas says
What a grand tour you’ve had.
Next up: An indie go go campaign to get you a fully equipped Mischief Cafe touring car and a year’s gas supply. After that, everything else will fall in line.
L.L. Barkat says
Love that, Maureen! (Might need to include a year’s supply of inns, toast, and tea, too 😉 )
Laura Brown says
If it can happen for potato salad, it can happen for tea and toast and poetry.
L. L. Barkat says
Well, at that price, I could travel for many, many months And buy a lot of cinnamon bread 🙂
Marcy Terwilliger says
Oh, let’s think even bigger Maureen. Maybe one of those shinny round Silver Stream Camper’s. If I can drive a truck I know L.L. Barkat can, we’ll get her in jeans and a cowboy hat and make her feel right at home down south.
L.L. Barkat says
Ha. 🙂 Believe it or not, Marcy, that was the first iteration of this dream. I pictured myself hosting the cafés right in a little RV type thing.
Michelle’s house (and Jody’s and so forth) were definitely more comfortable. But I’d still be up for it, if only for the fun of doing something like poetry on wheels.
LL, I read Michelle DeRusha blog this morning. What an awesome concept! I have the rv!
I have always wanted to read more poetry and I love to entertain!
I live in Colorado Springs(near Monument , Colorado) come on down…..
How about Christmas poems?????
Marcy Terwilliger says
L.L. that is just too serene. I’ll get you down here if you’ll fly Southwest and look for a bargain. I’ve got points I can share so I can stop renewing this card every year. I really liked the idea of the Silver Stream though. Reminds me of girl’s selling cupcakes and all. I’m having problems finding writers around here, looks like an ad in the paper might be my next step. They must be hiding out in the sticks somewhere.
Lynn D. Morrissey says
REally lovely. We could use a little poetry in St. Louis right now–something to soothe hearts. Glynn lives here. Maybe you could conjure something up.
Yes Lynn, what we need is a “God Movement” for people to pray for these souls to stop anymore uprising from happening. I can’t believe it’s come this far. We need Angel’s of mercy to be sent down and settle the soul’s with a forgiving heart.
This just made me giggle and oohhh,
all the way through.
Beginning to end.
And it made me think about cinnamon,
It also reminded me of an image that has been rolling around in my head about crystal.
What an amazing dream-like time it must have been. So happy for this traveling cafe. It’s really quite amazing, you know.
Oh… and before I finish my ramble… these words are just such a great strand of gems:
“How do we love, across gaps and miles, and different ways of holding our teacups?”