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Barbara Crooker on the Poetry Reading That Nearly Wasn’t

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A blog from: The Staff of Poets & Writers

Posted by RW Blogger on 4.17.13

Barbara Crooker’s books of poetry are Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, winner of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and More. She is the recipient of the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships in Literature, has had her poems read many times on The Writer’s Almanac, and is represented in The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Her newest book, Gold, is forthcoming this year from Cascade Books. Barbara blogs about her P&W-supported reading at the Long Island Violin Shop.

This past October, String Poets hosted a Poets & Writers reading in the Long Island Violin Shop in Huntington, Long Island. This was a unique venue for a poetry reading, part of a series that blends both poetry and music. I was paired with Shem Guibbory a member of the First Violin section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who has appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, among other places. He has embarked on what he calls the “Journey of 100,” one hundred performances in a row of J. S. Bach’s Chaconne, a piece that he says “suggests endless depth and profundity.” That night was Number 7 in this string of performances, during which he hopes to discover how his understanding of the work changes through the course of these performances (the first was at Lincoln Center). On his website, he states that “a performer and a listener in live performance have the potential to form a powerful bond: a link between themselves and the music.” And this is the hope of the poet, too, that a bond will form, that an electrical current will arise. In his blog, Mr. Guibbory felt that he was merely operating at 80 percent that night, but I felt the hairs on my head rise ala Emily Dickinson, in the presence of true poetry (in music).

This was an interesting and intimate performance spot, a small room in the middle of a violin shop. Every seat was taken, and I felt a real connection with the audience. Because the space was small, I was able to speak to just about every person present, and I sold a number of books, every poet’s dream. One of the poems that I read was called “Ode to Chocolate.” I’ve made a practice of bringing small squares of dark chocolate to hand out after my readings. This night, it felt very much like communion...

But this was the reading that very nearly didn’t happen. It had originally been scheduled the year before, when a nor’easter suddenly morphed into “Snowtober” or “White Halloween.” This was the only time in my writing life when I had to cancel a performance. I got halfway across New Jersey (I live in eastern Pennsylvania) when I had to pull over and call to say that the number of cars off the road and the lack of visibility made me too frightened to continue. We had over a foot of the heaviest, wettest snow I’ve ever seen, and 250,000 people were without power in my area for over a week. The organizer of the event, Annabelle Moseley, couldn’t have been more gracious, and she rescheduled me a year later. Some bit of insight or foreshadowing made her pick the week before, a gorgeous blue and gold fall weekend. The next week, a year to the day later, a storm called Sandy arrived...

Photos: (Top) Barbara Crooker. (Bottom"Snowtober." Credit: Kathy Morris.

Support for Readings/Workshops in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Reader Comments

  • ammoseley says...

    One note - that first link should go to String Poet: the literary journal and performance series, at www.stringpoet.com

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