Thursday, May 20, 2010

David Crews Reads His Poem "Middle of the Night Blues" at Poetry Festival

This past Sunday, May 16, was the annual Poetry Festival: A Celebration of Literary Journals. I've been running this event for seven years now, each time at my local library. Seven years ago I thought it would be a one shot thing. But it went so well and the librarians wanted to do it again, so we did a second year. Same story.

I invite 12 editors to come with their journals, all print journals. They set up in the Reference Room, each editor getting half a table for their journals, subscription information, and submission guidelines. Editors sell their journals and talk with visitors throughout the 4-hour event.

I also ask each editor to invite two poets to come and represent the journal, so we end up with 24 poets, each of whom reads two poems. The readings take place in the Community Room which holds 80 people, plus standing room. That room stays close to full throughout the event. Readings are arranged into segments of 3 journals, 6 poets each. In between, we have 20-minute breaks for browsing the journals and the poets' books. The books are for sale at the Circulation Desk.

We had a terrific line-up of poets this year. Actually, we always do! It's a wonderful opportunity for us to hear some favorite poets and meet some poets new to us. Many of the poets tell me that they've never had the chance to read in front of so many people.

Other nice things fan out from the festival. For example, other readings are booked as we always have some venue hosts who hear new voices and run to book. Editors get new subscribers and later report submissions from poets sending to them for the first time. Certainly one of the most exciting results this year was hearing poet Joe Weil—the only poet who has read at all seven festivals—read from his new book, The Plumber's Apprentice, just published by New York Quarterly Books. Even more exciting was learning that the publisher, Ray Hammond, had heard Joe at last year's festival and approached him about submitting a manuscript. Thus, the book.

Another one of this year's pleasures was hearing David Crews read for us, his first time at the festival as a poet though he's been part of the audience before. David is a high school English teacher and a fine poet. I used my new Nano to grab his reading of one poem. Then I made it into a movie of just over one minute. Enjoy.

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