Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sharing with the Ghosts

It is a nice feeling when the hard work of putting together an issue of Stoneboat results in not only a beautiful object that can be held in the hands and savored, (thank you Jim Giese, still our designer even though he is pursuing an MFA in environmental writing in Montana), but also a successful reading. We had great fun yesterday at Paradigm Coffee and Music in Sheboygan and had a nice turn out of "ghost readers." What is a ghost reader you may ask? This is a person, not the author of a particular work, who reads in the author's stead. Thank you ghost readers! This group included Nate Baake, Jake Belknap, the entire Byrand family, Karl Elder, Sean Gilligan, Amy Kudrow, and the editorial staff of Stoneboat (aka, me, Rob, and Signe.)

Because many of our contributors often live far from Sheboygan, we have started a tradition of enlisting the help of friends: other writers, community members, students, elders; in short, people from many walks of life to serve in this capacity as ghost readers. We don't read every single poem or story in each issue, but we attempt to get a good cross-section of the work, while piquing curiosity that might stimulate sales. (Always gotta stimulate sales, right?) This variety of voices--writer and non-writer alike--seems to animate the work in surprising and compelling ways. I like to think we may be starting a new trend here. I sense that we are helping to make good writing--whether poetry, fiction, or non-fiction--more accessible and vibrant for anyone who takes the time to pay attention.

I should add that we also were graced with the presence of two actual contributors, Margaret Rozga from Milwaukee and Stephan Mazurek from Chicago. We are grateful that they were able to make the trek up to Sheboygan. You can view a gallery of photos of many readers, whether ghosts or otherwise, taken by Signe on our Facebook page.

After reading a selection from the fall issue, we had an open mic. One of my favorite moments was when our friend and long-time Stoneboat supporter, Rich Christensen, shared a poem he wrote about an experience he had teaching long ago in Botswana. He said it was the first time he'd ever read at an open mic. He is recently retired from a long teaching career, much of it at Lakeland College, and he is turning to poetry in his retirement. Nothing makes me happier than to see people with stories to tell (and that would be pretty much everyone alive on the planet) giving themselves time and permission to try, no matter what genre they may chose. I say, tell it!

Our afternoon ended with a poetry piñata, an idea brought to us and facilitated by friend, ghost reader, and poet-in-her-own-right, Leighanne Fetter-Jensen. She told me before the reading that she had an "experiential" poetry activity to share, and while I did not know exactly what she had in mind, I said,"bring it on!" Imagine my surprise when she walked into Paradigm with a "My Pretty Pony" piñata filled with candy and words cut from political flyers. With Karl Elder's help and the permission of the management of Paradigm, we hung the piñata from the rafters and had at it with a stick. Big fun.

After poet Amy Kumrow dealt a blow in just the right place, we ate candy and made found poems with the words. It was a blast and nice way to wrap up not only this particular reading on that particular afternoon, but also a good end to this whole season of political rhetoric that has been driving us all nuts. May we all find more poetry inside everything we do, preferably without breaking anything to get to it, and may we all be moved to share it with each other while we are still not yet ghosts. 

1 comment:

Sig. said...

This was our best reading yet. We really outdid ourselves this time.