National Poetry Month Reading at Vera Mae’s April 11

Adrian B&W poster

Midwest Writers Workshop will host its annual poetry reading in celebration of National Poetry Month on April 11 at 7:30 at Vera Mae’s Bistro in downtown Muncie. We are featuring National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry finalist Adrian Matejka. Ball State University poets Katy Didden and Robert Young will also read from their collection of work.

 

 

 

Today we feature Robert Young.

Robert Young - Graduate School Ambassador

Robert Young was born in Fort Wayne, IN. In 2015, he was the Lead Poetry editor of The Broken Plate, Ball State’s undergraduate-run literary magazine. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Noble/Gas Qtrly, Midwestern Gothic, and The Evansville Review. Currently, he is pursuing an MA in creative writing at Ball State University. He is currently working on a chapbook of lyric and prose poetry.”

 

 

You served as editor on The Broken Plate, Ball State’s undergraduate-run literary magazine. How did that experience influence you own writing? Did you become more critical of your work? Learn to ask yourself different questions? Find different approaches and avenues of inquiry?

The Broken Plate was an amazing opportunity! I think every aspiring writer should work on a lit mag, because what working at The Broken Plate did for me was train my editorial eye; I learned how to distinguish between what makes a “good” poem and what makes an “okay” poem. Reading submissions for a lit mag means you sift through hundreds, thousands of poems even, and most of them won’t end up being published. Consequently, I was able to identify tropes and moves that others did in their poetry that felt played out, and then work to make my own poetry better. Thinking critically about other people’s work helped me think critically about my own work, and I think that it helped me make my work be more uniquely mine. Stand out more.

You are from Ft. Wayne and now Muncie. The Broken Plate receives submissions from across the U.S. and from some foreign countries as well. That must have broadened your view a little wider. 

That helped, yeah, but I think that my outlook on life has broadened a whole lot in the last year or two for a variety of reasons. I’ve started traveling more, I’ve met new people from different places, and of course I read a lot. Indiana will always be an important part of me and my identity, but I’m at a point in my life where I finally feel free and ready to move beyond it, and that’s an exciting prospect.

What poets do you read? Your favorites? Most influential and/or challenging? 

Hmm, right now I’m reading some books by poets that Katy [Didden] loaned to me, Cole Swenson and Jennifer Atkinson. I’ve been reading a lot of prose poetry lately since my Master’s creative project contains quite a few prose poems. It’s been sort of my obsession right now. I got a stack of Charles Simic books from the library. I’m also going through Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Prose Poetry.

(Rose Metal Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of hybrid genres specializing in the publication of short short, flash, and micro-fiction; prose poetry; novels-in-verse or book-length linked narrative poems; and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression. Co-founder of Rose Metal Press Kathleen Rooney is a past faculty member and good friend of Midwest Writers Workshop.)

Last year we had David Shumate as our featured reader. David’s prose poems are some of the best poetry I’ve read, with his vivid language and with the way he engages the senses. His gentle spirit and big heart. What led you to start writing prose poems? 

I started writing prose poems because it was a form I hadn’t done much work in and I wanted to try it out. The central idea for my creative project involved a lot of prose poetry, too. I’ve always been a poet primarily, but I also really love writing fiction, and so I’ve written a lot of flash fiction, and I think prose poetry is similar, but ultimately different. It’s hard to quantify, but I think it comes down to prose poems are more lyrical, flash is more plot-driven, but even those distinctions are tenuous at best. Writing in the boundary of genres is really my main writing interest.

What awaits you after your time at Ball State?

After this semester is over I’m going to leave BSU once and for all. It’s a weird bittersweet feeling. I did undergrad and my MA here, so I’ve spent 6 years and accumulated a lot of memories, good and bad. And I’m gonna miss it, but I’m also excited to go out somewhere new and live my life. I’ve been accepted to a few MFA programs for the Fall and I’m currently in the process of finalizing the details and deciding which one to attend.

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National Poetry Month 2017

Reading at Vera Mae’s Bistro April 11 at 7:30 P.M.

Featured Poet Adrian Matejka with Katy Didden and Robert Young

In the late 1990s on a warm spring day that tremoloed April sunlight, sometimes hiding it and sometimes letting it shine bright as a bolt of creative inspiration, I attended a poetry recital of Muncie area poets led by Mildred Raynold Trivers. She and members of her 401 Poetry group were famous for the Humpback Barn Festival of Artists and Poets, which which was held in Mildred’s barn on Twin Ponds Lane in October. But they also offered a reading in April, which since 1966 has been designated National Poetry Month.

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After I that reading, Mildred invited me to join her group. Fellow poet Michael Brockley  was already in the fold, and we both sit on the committee for Midwest Writers Workshop representing the poetic branch of the literary tree. It’s an oddly shaped branch and hard to reconcile with the rest of the tree, but every April they let us come into bloom and celebrate with an evening of verse.

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For several years now, we have held these readings, free and open to the public, at various venues around town. The last four years Kent and Steve at Vera Mae’s Bistro have been kind enough to our host our event. It’s great to recite amongst the myriad works of art on the wall and in the ambience of one of the state’s most highly recognized restaurants.

We have had the honor to present three Indiana Poet Laureates during our series at Vera Mae’s, along with other award winning poets and Ball State University students in the Creative Writing Program.

This year is Adrian Matejka joins the list. Already in his young career he has been chosen as a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection The Big Smoke. His newest book, Map to the Stars, was released in March. Also on the bill is environmental poet Katy Didden. Her book  The Glacier’s Wake, which won the 2012 Lena Miles Wever-Todd Prize from Pleiades Press. Rounding out the evening will be Robert Young, a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program at Ball State.

Our reading will take place April 11th at 7:30 P.M. It is free and open to the public at Vera Mae’s Balliard Hall.

National Poetry Month Reading April 6 at Vera Mae’s Bistro

Speaking of Allyson Horton

Midwest Writers Workshop hosts our annual National Poetry Month reading at Vera Mae’s Bistro in downtown Muncie, Indiana, tonight at 7:30 P.M. The featured readers include David Shumate, Jeremy Flick, and our profiled poet today, Allyson Horton. The reading is free to attend and is open to the public.

I first met Allyson at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis when I went to hear a tribute to the the American soul and jazz poet, musician and author Gil Scott-Heron. If it can be said that Scott-Heron brought jazz-influenced soul and funk music that sizzled with passion and vibrancy in its depth and political consciousness, it can also be said the Allyson Horton I spoke with that night also glowed with her passion for music, for the spoken and written word, and for the jazz scene in Indianapolis.

 

Little surprise then, the next meeting I found Allyson in the MFA Writing program at Butler University. Her concentration there was, of course, poetry. But if we step back a little farther in her life, we find a young, shy girl who rides a bus by herself to New York City and gets up on stage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Her quiet voice transformed into a presence that insisted that she be invited back.

 

Fast forward to a night in Indianapolis where she again gets on stage at the Writers Harvest to speak her words with the likes of John Green and Ben Winters. Here is a woman who at first seems meek and inward but is in fact a powerhouse, the “go to” poet if anyone in the Circle City wants to shake up the evening with a little poetry and a lot of soul. Keep your eyes open, and you’ll see her name pop up often.

 

I fell a little bit in love with Allyson that first night at the Jazz Kitchen, the way that someone who loves poetry and jazz falls is drawn to another who loves poetry and jazz. I’m sure when you meet Allyson, you will agree.

 

 

National Poetry Month Reading at Vera Mae’s Bistro April 6, 2016

Meet poet Jeremy Flick
On Wednesday, April 6, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., Midwest Writers Workshop will host the 4th annual National Poetry Month reading at Vera Mae’s Bistro in downtown Muncie, IN.  All are welcome and the event is free.
This year, as fate would have it, we have three Indianapolis poets joining us: the wonderful and nationally known prose poet David Shumate, jazz poet extraordinaire Allyson Horton, and Ball State University master’s candidate Jeremy Flick.
To lead off our interview series with these poets, today we feature Jeremy.
Jeremy Flick is native of Indianapolis, IN. He currently holds a BA in English with concentration in Creative Writing and is a second-year Master’s student in Creative Writing at Ball State University. He serves this year as assistant to Adam Beach, Department Chair.
MWW: What brought you to writing poetry? 
JF: I found my way to poetry in my junior year of high school. Before that time, I had written many songs–arguably a form of poetry–but had never read contemporary poets’ work or learned the forms or functions. Once I started writing poems in high school, I would write nearly every day–typically angsty and lacking literary merit. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I decided creative writing would be my career path. I worked with multiple professors in the department and my craft became more than a hobby; it became a passion. Since I returned to Ball State to earn my Master’s degree, I would say my skills in poetry have increased ten-fold. I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to do what I love.
MWW: What kind of poems do you write?
JF: If I had to describe the types of poems I write, I would say they’re very reminiscent of the confessional style. I write a lot about depression and personal/family struggles with addiction. I find that more often than not my poems are narrative, but I occasionally write disjointed or surreal poems. My two favorite forms, though starkly different, are free-verse and sonnets. I find joy writing in structure at times.
MWW: Who are your major influences and who do you enjoy reading now?
JF: My major influences in poetry would include Sylvia Plath (a downright obsession), Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Charles Bukowski, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell, to name a handful.
Recent poets’ work that I’ve enjoyed:
Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
Elegy  by Larry Levis
Factory of Tears by Valzhyna Mort
Citizen: An American Lyric  by Claudia Rankine
More Wreck More Wreck by Tyler Gobble
Each of these poets has a very different aesthetic, but has certainly inspired some of my most recent poems.
MWW: What awaits you after your MA?
JF: After graduating this May (2016) with my Master’s in Creative Writing, I plan on taking a year off of studying to elude the dreaded feeling of “burnt out.” I have recently accepted an adjunct teaching position at a nearby community college and plan on gaining teaching experience during my time off. However, come fall I will be applying to PhD programs in creative writing. I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to teach, but I can’t wait to continue studying poetry.
MWW: Besides poetry, what forms does your writing take? Any publishing success so far?
JF: Other than poetry, I really enjoy writing and recording my own music. I have written two full-length albums and an EP under the name Your Silent Modern War . I savor playing my acoustic guitar and being able to write lyrics that reflect different ideas and feelings than my poetry. I have also written a few nonfiction essays that allow me to use my poetic voice in a different form. I’ve come to realize that writing in completely different genres helps me generate ideas for poetry.
At this point I have only had one poem–titled “Portland, Indiana”–accepted for publication at The Birds We Piled Loosely and the issue should appear online on April 1st. I’m constantly sending out poems and submitting to competitions, so here’s hoping I find more success in the near future!
MWW: Any pursuits/passions other than writing?
JF: As I mentioned above, music. Otherwise, I’ve found passion in teaching. I never liked English classes–particularly in primary and secondary school–so I really try to take the initiative in my classroom by making the course not only applicable to my students and their future, but interesting as well. Helping students learn and seeing that light bulb go off makes me feel like I have chosen the right career path. (It also helps that I’ve had a few students tell me they learned a lot in my class and that I’m their favorite professor.) Luckily for me I get to combine these two passions, as I’m currently teaching a first year composition research-based course themed around music.
You may find more information at my website: www.jeremyaflick.com

The Poet in the City: A PechaKucha Presentation

The David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, hosts PechaKucha Night in the spring and fall as part of their Final Friday each month.

PechaKucha, or “chit-chat” in Japanese, is a unique, fast paced, and fun presentation format. 20 slides for 20 seconds each.  October’s theme was “Being,” and I presented on being a poet in the city.

Slide01

The city has given life and voice to poets like William Carlos Williams, CP Cavafy, Jack Gilbert, Frank O’Hara. In return, I think a poet gives the same back to the city. Their words, written and spoken, can help define it, its people, its reason for being.

Slide02

The Owsley Museum is a wonderful place for poets. Last month they invited Mike Brockley and me to write poems on demand for you patrons and you kept us busy.

In 2009, they brought in then Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf and pianist Monika Herzig for a delightful Sunday afternoon of poetry and jazz.

Slide03

During the Asian Miniatures exhibit, about 40 people joined us in writing a ghazal, an ancient poetic form. Some were boyfriends dragged in by their art student girlfriends, but mostly, they were all good sports. We split into five groups and each group wrote a couplet, ending in the word water. It turned out pretty good.

Slide04

Here is a 1991 handbill for the second annual Humpback Barn Festival, which was held in Mildred Trivers barn and paired poets with artists. It went on for 17 years, ending its run at Minnetrista Cultural Center.

Mildred told us, “Slow down” when we got up to read, and “Poets are dangerous people.”

Slide05

Mike Brockley and I serve on  the Midwest Writers Workshop committee. The workshop meets in July and next year will be our 43rd. Mostly, they don’t know what to do with their poets, so they lock us in closets. Only letting us out to do some events around town.

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Vera Mae’s has been a great partner for National Poetry Month. We’ve had readings by several Indiana poets including two Poet Laureates.

There’s been poetry and jazz at Doc’s Music Hall.

Gallery 308 invited us to collaborate with Sally Myers and with Carol Blakney and Mary Ann Rhea.

And the the Open Door Clinic has three of my poems on the exterior of their building.

Slide07

We have written Poems on Demand at the big ArtsWalks in the spring and fall downtown. We started about a decade ago.

In October, 2013, Mike and I wrote 42 poems.

This month was a challenge with the wind, and we eventually had to take down the canopy. Thankfully, I was writing a poem for Architecture students who were good building things with their hands, and they had the tent down in no time. Only one girl named Dot was blown away by the wind.

Slide08

Here is Mike with his “grokking” hat on. You know, that word is in the dictionary. Actually I think that might be my hat. So that’s where it went. And here are some of our clientele. Looking for a party idea? Wedding? Consider Poets for Hire.

Slide09

Tools of the trade for Poems While You Wait: Manual typewriters, paper, and a table to sit at.

Writing a poem for someone else, up close and personal, can be daunting and surreal. You have to suspend your own windows of perception to get yourself out of your box.

Slide10

A woman this year asked me, “How do we do this?” I really don’t know, it’s different each time. I keep asking questions, digging deeper. Really it’s not as bad as a minute with Lucy. A little closer to divination. In that empathic moment, something beautiful happens

Slide11

It’s as if I’m hanging there in mid air, grasping for anything. Then you say something that’s gold.

“He’s a good man to have around.”

“A secret life of serial parking violations.”

“The Cute One and the Chattanooga Red Hot.”

“He held me grand.” (This one is thanks to James Still.)

These are the hooks into the poems.

Slide12

It’s all about going through a portal and into someone else’s head. Like in this movie. You’re on that half-floor you never knew existed. You can do it. No kidding. Suddenly you’re seeing through their eyes. Lean back, flex your fingers and begin to type.

Slide13

Here’s Mike working again. Notice, we can’t see if the table is firmly on the ground or not. After writing—we read the poem aloud. People don’t expect this, to hear the words being read by the author. It’s a captivating surprise—the vision, the words and the voice.

Slide14

Maybe you know this scene with the street poet who writes a verse for Celine and Jesse. Pity the poor sceptic who assumes the poems are recycled, with only a few words changed. Oh, where is your joy, man. Have a little faith. We are artistes!

Slide15

Don’t take my word for it. Here are some happy customers who can attest to the veracity and spontaneity of our work. There are folks you simply cannot fool. One testimonial states, “Arf, Arf, Arf, Arf.” Translated. “Poets are great at parties, too.”

Slide16

Here’s a list of the poets who helped out at the Living Lightly Fair last month. It was a dark and stormy morning, and thunderstorms drove us us inside before the Fair had a chance to begin. But the sun broke through, and each poet had their own strategy of delving out a poem.

And again, its nice to have the poem read out loud.

Slide17

Interurban, my writing group in Indy, helped out at the Broad Ripple Art Fair in June.

Here is another strategy:

Observe your surroundings.

Listen to what is said next to you.

Lydia is asking Liza Hyatt’s daughter three questions. That went into my poem for Ashley who worked with the flower art booth. Man, I’m a sponge in the worst way.

Slide18

Legend has it a woman saw Picasso working in the park

“It’s you. You must sketch my portrait!”

He agreed. Studied a moment, and used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait.

“It’s perfect! You captured my essence with one stroke. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars.”

“But. It only took you a second to draw it!” How could you want so much money for this picture?

“Madame,’ he said. “It took me my entire life.”

Slide19

So how much is enough? People have told us a dollar isn’t. Twenty isn’t either, but how many will stop by for that price?

But then…sometimes…we are paid in immeasurable ways. Like Katy, who got back a piece of art.

Or the best gift of all…

Slide20

Alice’s reaction. Those moments filled with revelations and smiles are amazing. Heartbeats sync when you say,

“Oh I was just thinking of my grandmother.”

Or “Cherries are my son’s favorite.”

Or “I love honeysuckle.”

But these words were never mentioned at all before I wrote it. That’s the Muse. It truly is a magic way to be.