Archive for the ‘Writers In Performance Series’ Tag

Billy Collins At The Tucson Festival Of Books, 2018   Leave a comment

One of my favorite living poets is Billy Collins, and no less than the Wall Street Journal has called him “America’s Favorite Poet.” If you were to do a search on this blog, you would find five references to Billy Collins.

This year’s festival is the 10th, and as usual, the two-day event was loaded with many great writers, and when it comes to poets, Collins is worthy of “rock-star” status. Let there were two poets I regret not being able to see and visit with: Sarah Cortez who has been a frequent reader at the annual Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson birthday celebrations part of the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council “Writers In Performance Series” (One of the blogs I manage but have not updated since leaving Texas in 2010, is Writers In Performance); Juan Felipe Herrera a poet, performance artist and activist. Herrera is the son of migrant farm workers and was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015–2017. 

There is so much to do and see at this annual festival, which means there is so much to miss.

— kenne

Billy Collins blogBilly Collins at the Tucson Festival of Books, 2018 — Image by kenne

Billie Collins blogImage by Joy


Video — Billy Collins reading about goats fainting at the Tucson Festival of Books (March 10, 2018)

— Video by kenne

Edward Hirsch — “Green Couch”   1 comment

Ed Hirsch & Yard Photos  9008-collage blogEdward Hirsch Reading at Lone Star College – Montgomery, Writers In Performance Series (April, 2010) — Images and Video by kenne


by Edward Hirsch

That was the year I left behind my marriage
of twenty-eight years, my faded philosophy books, and
the green couch I had inherited from my grandmother.

After she died, I drove it across the country
and carried it up three flights of crooked stairs
to a tiny apartment in west Philadelphia,

Ed Hirsch & Yard Photos  9007 sq blogand stored it in my in-laws’ basement in Bethesda,
and left it to molder in our garage in Detroit
(my friend Dennis rescued it for his living room),

and moved it to a second-floor study in Houston
and a fifth-floor apartment on the Upper West Side
where it will now be carted away to the dump.

All my difficult reading took place on that couch,
which was turning back into the color of nature
while I grappled with ethics and the law,

the reasons for Reason, Being and Nothingness,
existential dread and the death of God
(I’m still angry at Him for no longer existing).

That was the year that I finally mourned
for my two dead fathers, my sole marriage,
and the electric green couch of my past.

Darlings, I remember everything.
But now I try to speak the language of
the unconscious and study earth for secrets.

I go back and forth to work.
I walk in the botanical gardens on weekends
and take a narrow green path to the clearing.

Philip Levine — The Voice Of The Voiceless And That’s The Simple Truth   2 comments

WIPPhotosScanned36 Phillip Levain blog art frameSimple TruthPhilip Levine — Image by kenne

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Writers In Performance Series, Mid-1990’s — Images by Nancy Parsons

Voice of the Voiceless

life is simple,
we make it complicated —
that’s the simple truth.

I found myself reading
the poems of Philip Levine —
blessed with the gifts
of listening and observing;
enabling him to care,
he has called the
“voice of the voiceless”.

Above all,
Levine is a story-teller
of people decaying
in the spoils of the rich,
speaking directly
from the front lines,
bearing witness to
revolutions, faded.

By writing about work,
Levine writes about life.
waiting in the work line.
waiting in the assembly line.
waiting for the next task —
not changed from the last.

I, too,
worked an assembly line.
I, too,
bless the imagination
that have given me
myths I live by —
images created by
my visionary power
to bear witness.

I, too,
sing America —
that’s the simple truth.

— kenne

p. s. The other day I was listening to NPR when I heard that Philip Levine added another award to the many this great American poet has received, the American Academy of Poets life-time achievement award (Wallace Stevens Award). Levine, the 2011 U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner for his book, “The Simple Truth” is one of my favorite living poets. It was not long after this book’s publication that we were honored to have Levine read at Long Star College – Montgomery, Writers In Performance Series.


Laureate Philip Levine, Working Class Poet
by Robin Bates

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

by Philip Levine

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.


Body and Soul — A Poem By Rich Levy, Revisited   5 comments

Rich LevyLone Star College – Montgomery Library, Writers In Performance Series. — Images and video by kenne

Rich LevySeptember 17, 2009, poet Rich Levy was the presenter at the first fall 2009 Writers In Performance at Lone Star College – Montgomery. As I had done for about a year, I recorded his reading, which took place in the college library. Levy earned his MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and has been the executive director of Inprint, a nonprofit literary arts organization in Houston, Texas, since 1995.

Several of the poem he read were from his 2009 book of poems, “Why Me?” One of the poems that impressed me was titled, “Body and Soul” after Coleman Hawkins’ recording — “. . . the hurling way in which their talk moves, the way his nostrils flare as he tries with an occasional false shyness to avert his glance makes me think of Coleman Hawkins’ 1939 recording of Body and Soul, the one that took the world’s breath away, . . .  “

This is poetry that possesses the feelings that makes Blues and Jazz the most human of all music, therefore existential.


(I first posted the video September 19, 2009.)

Capturing the Word — Beth Ann Fennelly Revised   Leave a comment

As I often do at each Writers In Performance Series reading, I purchase one of the writer’s books of poetry. It was not different May 4, 1998 when Beth Ann Fennelly was our guest writer. It was an evening I remember well, not  because she was a young attractive women, which could serve to bias one’s impression, but because I loved her poetry and her spoken-word skills.

After the reading, I ask her to sign her book of poetry, A Different Kind of Hunger, in which she was kind enough to write:

For Kenne,

Thanks for your presence here tonight.
The world needs more poetry-loving,
coffee brewing deans.

I hope you enjoy these
poems and share this hunger.

Indeed I have. My biggest regret is that I will not be there to brew the coffee when Beth Ann returns to the Writers In Performance Series this Thursday evening (7:00 p.m. September 16, 2010 at Lone Star College – Montgomery).

After her reading in 1998, Beth Ann went on to receive many awards for her writing and is now a professor at the University of Mississippi.

For this Capturing the Word posting, I have selected “Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding,” from A Different King of Hunger

Poem Not To Be Read at Your Wedding

You ask me for a poem about love
in lieu of a wedding present, trying to save me
money. For three nights I’ve lain under
glow-in-the-dark stars I’ve stuck to the ceiling
over my bed. I’ve listened to the songs
of the galaxy. Well Carmen, I would rather
give you your third set of steak knives
than tell you what I know. Let me find you
some other store-bought present. Don’t
make me warn you of stars, how they see us
from that distance as miniature and breakable
from the bride who tops the wedding cake
to the Mary on Pinto dashboards
holding her ripe red heart in her hands.


Beth Ann Fennelly photo source – Google Images

Capturing the Word — Wendy Barker   1 comment

Images by kenne

Wendy seems like a close friend. We have met only on special occasions. Birthday parties,  Emily Dickinson birthday parties. So often over the years, Wendy is my picture of Emily. Why not? I have photos of Wendy on those special occasions when we shared our appreciation and love for Emily Dickinson’s poetry. As much as I may love poetry, it is the spoken word that really touches me. Only then can I see the poets mannerisms, hear the voice annunciation and feel the emotions of the moment. Wendy came to fill the void through which Emily and I have become friends. Wendy has added color to sepia, she is my muse.

So, it’s no wonder that when Wendy was schedule to read her own poetry at a Writers In Performance Series last December, I could help but feel that Emily Dickinson was coming to read Wendy Barker. Think about it. How wonderful! My muse meets the goddess.

At the December series, Wendy read from her recent novel in prose poems, Nothing Between Us. For this “Capturing the Word” posting, I have chosen to share Wendy’s prose poem, “Sunday Morning, Go for A Drive:”

Up the coast. Or down. Bring the binoculars. Get out of town. Breathe.
Always hungry before we got where we were going. Stinson Beach,
Bolinas, Point Reyes. Greg would want a big meal—two cheeseburgers,
double order of fries, a full pitcher of Bud. I’d want a tuna sandwich,
banana, orange juice. No matter how I’d try to focus the binos,
no matter what rock I scrambled up on, I could never spot the bird I
wanted to see up close. Feathers confused among breaches and twigs.
The wind off the water roughing my hair. And Greg’s voice, breath
smelling of tannic acid, saying hurry it up, time to go.


Capturing the Word — Paul D. Ruffin   Leave a comment

My next poetry book from my shelves is Circling, by long time supporter and participant in the Writers in Performance Series is teacher, writer, editor and 2009 Texas Poet Laureate, Paul Ruffin. The poem I have selected, “Explaining How Dead Are Different,” literally fail out of the book (page 72) as a result of the weakened binding of my copy of Circling.

Beside the cat-struck bird she lays
the dried shell of a roach, each
with no more life than the concrete
step she has laid them on.
“They are dead,” she says
to me in her careful four-year voice.
I nod and continue with my reading.
She points to a bird angling to land
in the plum tree out from the porch.
“But that one is not.” I nod again.
“Will you explain the difference?”

The bird in the tree is trilling
and preening, from time to time
pecking a plum; below him wasps
buzz about the too-ripe windfalls.
Wind stirs lightly in the feathers
of the dead bird, scoots the hull
of the roach. “Come sit here.”
She hoists herself to my lap
and the uncertain lesson begins.

Last August, Paul’s good friend and Montgomery County Poet Laureate, Dave Parsons read their poetry at a “Good Books In The Woods” event, “Texas Shootout.” The following video contains some of their readings and will give you a taste of Paul’s more recent poems.


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