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.
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