Live poet’s society
January 26, 2009
By Jeff Richards
“A coward dies a thousand deaths.”
The night began with an empty chair and a microphone, but one by one, some of Issaquah’s writers, thinkers and observers came to the stage to bare their thoughts and feelings to the crowd in the form of poetry.
“It is an act of personal courage, and anyone who doesn’t understand that needs to try it,” Nancy Talley said. “Poetry is about a multitude of voices, and when you put together the multitude of voices, it’s a great joy to hear.”
The would-be poets gathered Jan. 20 for the first Open Mic Poetry Readings at Vino Bella Wine and Espresso Bar. Talley, who hosted the event, formulated the idea.
The night brought together six writers, including Talley, who read their works to an unusually packed Tuesday night crowd.“I know you Joe. You’re the type of person who always tries to get what you want.”
The poetry night is the third Tuesday of each month from now on.
Talley said she thought of the idea while in the library, and she wondered aloud why such a thing did not exist in Issaquah. Upon looking into it, she was told professional poets had been brought to Issaquah before, and no one showed up.
But that’s not what she wanted. She wanted a place where anyone, of any experience level, could come and share their work in front of a positive, supportive crowd.
Joan Probala, of the Issaquah Arts Commission, said she loved the idea and helped Talley set things in motion. Probala said her work with the commission had been for other arts, never poetry.
“Art is not just statues. It’s reading, it’s writing, it’s poetry,” she said. “I think Issaquah should be proud of its writers.”
When looking for a location, she said Vino Bella was a logical choice for its good wine and cozy atmosphere.
“Dear child of hope. As you are born and rest on your child’s breast, what message will you bring?”
Vino Bella is a long, thin building with the kind of brick walls that look to have been hastily slapped together during an era vacant of televisions, cell phones and micro brews.
The dark room is calmly lit by an assortment of small lamps, white Christmas lights and the headlights of passing cars. The art on display is a smattering of vivid colors in random arrangements, with names like “New Media.”
The stage is nothing but a half-foot-tall rise from the floor, accompanied by a microphone and a single stool, though no one used it.
The atmosphere made it a welcome venue for those participating, like Christopher Hill, who said the poetry reading was a cathartic experience for him.
“It was pretty noncritical,” he said. “People were open to hearing different types of poetry. There were not a lot of preconceived notions about what poetry is.”
Hill said he was encouraged to attend after taking an eight-week writing course with Reisha Holton, who also read at the poetry reading.
“It was all about positive feedback,” Hill said. “It wasn’t really a critique.”
One of the poems he read was inspired by a prompt from Holton’s class in which album covers were placed on the ground and music by Van Morrison was played in the background. From there, the class had to just write about how it made them feel.
Hill’s work from that came to be a poem about feelings of entitlement and self-assuredness, called “National Debt.”
“She is one of many now who know no place is home.”
Vino Bella owner Claude Blumenzweig said he was more than happy to host the poetry reading. The Front Street wine bar is a venue for other entertainment, such as Comedy Night and Jam Dawgs jam sessions.
“You couldn’t do something like this anywhere else,” he said. “Like in a library? It’s too noisy.”
The evening was the first of what those involved hope will become a monthly event.
While she did not read, Probala said she enjoys listening to the work of others.
“Poetry’s like a camera,” she said. “Pictures go off in your mind of how you feel.”
Until the next poetry reading on Feb. 17, Talley and Probala can only hope Issaquah’s writers continue to write and find the courage to add themselves to those brave souls who choose to share their hearts and minds with fellow residents of the Issaquah community.
“Short shimee. Ain’t it cool.”
The quoted poems are excerpts from work read by Jay Kumar, Christopher Hill, Michael Johnson and Barbara Carole.