I left Ellouise's house last Thursday morning, heading north and west to Morgantown, WV. I had two goals for this leg of my trip: visit with my youngest son Tommy (the bodybuilder) and be the featured poet for the Morgantown Poets monthly gathering.
I found my way out of the DC Metro area easily and breathed a deep sigh of relief when I was finally on Interstate 68 heading west. Traffic almost disappears on this highway and the mountains loom in the distance, calling me home. The trip was fast, even with a stop at the Waffle House for breakfast. I broke my usual diet rules and stocked up on carbs--eggs, grits, and biscuits and gravy. Yum. A cup of coffee to go and I was on my way again, feeling full and happy.
Tommy looked as amazing as ever; I am still amazed that my son is so built! He works hard to maintain his physique even when he is not competing. He's finishing up his senior year of college and will graduate in May, so he's at the point of being sick to death of classes and tests. We had a really good visit, then I left for the poets' meeting and he had a meeting of his own to attend.
Morgantown Poets holds their monthly gatherings in the Monongalia Arts Center in the heart of old-town Morgantown. I was not sure what to expect but I did know that a couple friends would be there and was glad to see them. The room began filling up and I was busy selling books and CDs even before my presentation. It looked like it was going to be a good night.
The three artforms I am involved with impact and feed from each other. Reading poetry aloud is like and unlike telling stories. In one way poetry is easier because I can read the poems, whereas stories are all from memory. Poetry is more difficult, though, because there is a certain timing and rhythm to each poem, and delivering the words properly so my intent and meaning is clear requires considerable thought and practice. Ballad-singing impacts both my storytelling and my poetry reading. Singing puts a person in touch with the music of their voice; storytelling brings focus to creating visual images; poetry concentrates on finding just the words to convey meaning, emotion, and imagery. The weaving of these elements into story, song or poem intrigues me and I think improves my work in each area.
I read for about 45 minutes, moving from poem to poem with short stories about how I came to write each one or something about the background of the poem. And of course, we started with a ballad because I love to sing and I love people singing with me--so we had Devil and the Farmer's Wife, a ballad that is funny and has a chorus for the audience. The time passed quickly and when I was finished I sold out of my books and most of the CDs were gone too. Then it was time for open mic and I enjoyed listening to the work of other poets and writers. My friend Diane Tarantini read her poem about the WV Writer's Conference (and brought vividly back to my memory the night on the porch as we sang, told stories, read poems and talked into the early morning hours. What a time that was).
After the reading many of the group adjourned to a local tavern to snack, have a drink and continue conversations. I returned to Tommy's to spend the night, and get ready for another long drive, back to Northern Virginia to return my sweet brother-in-law's car and pick up my repaired SUV. It would be another day on the road.