It's Monday night. You're on your way to the laundromat to do some wash. Pretty ho-hum. But when you lug that load inside, there's more than bleaching and folding going on. It's open mic poetry night at the laundromat. The host hands out balloons and bubbles for everyone to blow as they listen, and the poets' pockets are loaded with coin change in case you forgot yours. After initial disbelief, you are enchanted. Yes, you realize, poetry does exist in everyday life. That's the effect the Out-of-Pocket Poets Committee hopes to have on the unassuming audiences they've been gathering during their month long poetry event: The Poet Said What?
Why did the Out-of-Pocket Poets Committee plan this event? The Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month five years ago and it's still going strong. Last year we organized about 12 readings over a period of five days. This year, we figured why not have a reading just about every day for the month? We all put our heads together and started phoning places: local businesses, bookstores, laundromats, high schools, and planned 24 readings. What's really exciting about this month is that the readings aren't constrained to libraries or the usual places where you'd expect readings. We wanted to put poetry in places where people wouldn't expect it. I even tried to get a tattoo parlor.
Of the more obscure venues you've done so far, what has been the audience reaction? The large amount has been terrific! At the laundromat everybody, including us, was pretty surprised that this was happening at this location. The people doing their wash seemed a little disapproving at first, and then they really started to enjoy it, and began to request schedules and buying copies of our chapbook that we printed.
Is this going to happen again next year? Absolutely. People have asked us for this to be an ongoing event, whether it be monthly, or what have you. Every April we want Colorado Springs to have a plethora of poetry going on. I have some reservations about the notion of National Poetry Month because every month is poetry month, every day is poetry day.
How did the Committee come up with the name Out-of-Pocket Poetry? It has to do with the fact that it's "do it yourself." We don't have any funding. It's kind of an upstart organization.
What kind of changes will you make for next year? We'd like to get sponsorship. It would be nice to have it videotaped and possibly broadcast. What I'd like to see happen is four to five readings to choose from each week, each month. It's a big enough town, it should happen.
What would you like to tell someone who hasn't been to one of the readings yet? The readers themselves are so diverse that there's something for everyone. Come prepared to enjoy yourself, to laugh, to maybe even get a little teary.
What does poetry mean to you? In the same way that I would go to a museum to see paint used in interesting and unusual ways, I go to hear poetry to experience language being used in exciting, surprising and shocking ways.
For information on upcoming The Poet Said What? events, check out our listings. For a complete calendar of readings and maps to locations, visit the Out-of-Pocket Poets Committee Web site: http//home.earthlink.net/~bknuckles