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Dec
06
2022
Literary Arts

Emergent Verse | LIVE at the Epic!

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What if you could sit outside on a fall evening, close your eyes and savor poetry and poetic prose composed and performed by talented pairs of (mostly) villagers? Well, thanks to the ambitious vision of Gail Lichtenfels, owner/operator of Epic Book Shop, 232 Xenia Ave., you can.

Gail is currently treating the community to a weekly feast of words every Friday night, 6:30–8 p.m., through the rest of the year, perhaps beyond, if there’s sufficient support. And while the weather holds, they’re taking place on the terrazzo in front of the store.

A diversity of writers from all over the region add to the charm, though most scheduled writers are Yellow Springers. The schedule is available on the full-service bookstore’s website — see epic-bookshop.com — and lists writers from Cedarville (Steve Broidy), Xenia (Rita Coleman) and even as far away as Columbus (Rikki Santer). Some will read from published works, available for purchase at the event, and others from works-in-progress.

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I was so moved by the first event, I tried to capture the vibe in the poem-photo below:

EPIC READS
Villagers of every ilk assemble
in chairs circled on the terrazzo.
We don’t even need to speak;
simply seeing each other on the street
after Covid’s long winter makes
us want to weep.

A woman in white summer dress
and broad-brimmed hat
is pure grace while she waits,
mirroring my own expectant grin.
The pigeon family arrives and takes
its place high on Epic’s cornice.
Meat smells waft in from the Tavern’s
adjacent patio where glasses clink,
toasting the fading blue light.

But look! — a priestess of prose
stands at the mic; we absorb her words,
absorb her, best we can above
motorcycle’s blat and semi’s honk,
sudden thunder rumbling through town.

This late August Friday night is open
for the business of the heart:
the necessary consolation of art.

The “priestess of prose” at the mic was either Diane Chiddister or Lauren “Chuck” Shows, each of whom dazzled attendees at the first reading. The very next week “priest” Scott Geisel entertained the crowd of 25 or so with tantalizing snippets from both of his Jackson Flint Yellow Springs mystery novels. There was even a guest appearance at the curb by the hot car so important to the plot of “Water That Binds.” (It actually belongs to Dan Rudolf.)

After enduring the pandemic and other tough situations lately, including the loss of so many beloved villagers, we need more than ever to gather, laugh and cry together. Gail is providing just such an occasion. And if you haven’t visited Epic lately, it’s well worth your while to wander through its rooms and let serendipity guide you to the perfect book, maybe even a volume of modern poetry.

I believe poetry at its best can exceed even the depth and breadth of prose, doing so with the utmost brevity and concision. Being also a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I don’t say this lightly. Though we may resist its urgency, poetry laughs, croons and slaps us awake, roots us in the present, resurrects and restores us. It might even save us undue suffering if we’d rely more often on the bursts of insight it offers, contained within astonishing language and imagery.

In my following poem, published in Mock Turtle Zine a while back, I imagine poetry being as accessible as fire extinguishers:

EMERGENCY VERSE
Velvet baggies stuffed with stanzas
you can tear open with your teeth
hanging beside every portal
in all public halls: sonnets,
sestinas, lyrics and odes;
Rumi, Rilke, Dylan, Olds.

Take two poems every hour
without water, food or prose.
Dissolve under tongue and wait
for imagery to flood your soul;
active organic ingredients
to kick-start the heart: simile,
caesura, consonance, lust, love.

You’ll know you’re cured
when the sky becomes an endless
wave of birds, when words
turn to colors
that have no names.

The next time you feel the need for a foxhole prayer, consider adding a favorite poem. Store a few on your phone or subscribe to one of the poem-a-day services. Try memorizing a few favorites, good for your brain as well as your spirit.

Eventually the weather will grow chilly, and the Epic readings will need to adjourn indoors to the store’s cozy, well-lit, squeaky-floored interior. Not to worry. Epic’s literary abundance will provide an equally delicious setting. Meanwhile, I hope to see you on Sept. 30, when former Yellow Springs News reporter/columnist Audrey Hackett shares intimate space with Columbus poet Rikki Santer. Get there early if you want a seat.

Send your poems to me at edavis903@sbcglobal.net.

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