Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Baltimore Poetry & Spoken Word Calendar

February 4, 2009

Well I am blogging less and calendaring more.  I am now coordinating the Event Calendar and Newsletter for Poetry in Baltimore.  I am hoping to convince some other brave souls to work with me on this endeavor.  It is amazing how many events occur in Baltimore.  I am already over 65 events for February alone.  So go check it out.  You can send me new events or changes to Use the same email if you are interested in working with me on this exciting project. 

So now you have no excluse, come out to a reading or an open mic.  Try a new venue.  You will be glad you did.

The calendar:


Barack Obama in Baltimore

January 18, 2009

I made it to Obama’s “Whistlestop” today.  Here is a poem I wrote.  It is still raw, but tomorrow never waits.

Baltimore Whistlestop,

January 17th, 2009


Crowds stream from Light Rail & buses

            Golf cart lane down Baltimore Street.

Coldest day of year

            Strange light of mid-winter late afternoon.


Barricades everywhere

            Buses blocking roads

Police of every agency & uniform

            Clumps of unarmed soldiers

The big line

            The metal detectors

Secret service on roofs

            Scoping the crowd


Then the plaza

            Where did the homeless go?

Standing in the middle of Fayette Street

            Amidst the crowd

All races, all classes


Only seen at Artscape

Or maybe a ball game


Then the moment

            No one had foreseen

With a thousand cameras & phones

            Held over heads

A black man taking the legacy

            1776, Fort McHenry

On streets

            Where black folks were chattel.


A recreation of Lincoln’s

            Inaugural train

Except without the disguises

            And the sneaking


First blood of the Civil War

            Spilled blocks away

As rioters

            Attacked northern volunteers

Rioters still honored

            In our state’s anthem

“Avenge the patriotic gore

            That flecked the streets of Baltimore”


The next day rail bridges burned

            On our mayors command

Telegraph lines to DC

            Torn down

Then occupation

            Federal Hill cannon turned

So many things have turned

            And turned again


Are we truly

            A people

Of common hopes

            Of common dreams?


Eleven minutes from the crowds roar

            To “God bless America”

Then the magic ended

            And music resumed


Marching back

            Watching family portraits taken

I spoke with a fifty-something black couple

Who on a normal day I would never meet

They missed the speech

            “How long?”

“Only 10 minutes”

            “We were expecting more”

I play them the speech

            Recorded on my phone


You can tell the poet

            Everyone snapping pictures

And this fool

            Recording words and dreams

Everyone will say “you should have seen it”

I will say “you should have heard it”


VERBATIMondays January 5th

January 8, 2009

The features on Monday were Green Tea and Archie the Messenger.   Green Tea was an instant hit with the crowd.  And I felt the same way.  She sang a-capella with a percussionist.  Green Tea combines strong jazz / blues influence with her own lyrics and songs. 

Archie the Messenger returned to Baltimore for this week.  His performance poems/ spoken word pieces were so well known that a number in the audience kept up with him reciting his pieces.  He has a powerful presence and incredible timing.  But I will need to see him again to know how I feel about his poems.  Keeping track of the performance, the words, the sense of what was straight vs. irony left me feeling that I was only scratching the surface of his work.

Another highlight of the night was the host, Rebecca Dupas, who did four pieces including a new piece that I liked.  There were a number of strong performances at the open mic, but not nearly as strong as last month.  I don’t like the come on strong sexually-explicit pick-up poems disguised as love poems.  Perhaps this is a cultural issue, but the women listening did not seem impressed either, especially when it went over the top. 

I did Letter from the Future  at the open mic.  I think it touched some people.  I would not be surprised if it turned a few people off.  It will be interesting to see what the response to this poem is as I read it to different audiences.  There certainly is alot of room to either touch alot of raw nerves or inspire people.    I was hoping to do a new Spoken/Chanted piece “Never Forget”, but I did not have time.  This piece may answer the question that is on the minds of alot a folks at VERBATIMondays and The Art of Conversation, “what is this wierd white guy doing here?”.  I will post it after I have a chance to perform it.

3rd Friday PerVerse – December 19th

December 24, 2008

This was my first time at PerVerse. ( I guess “the first time” is a bit of a theme here.) This reading was for the new edition of the journal Poems Against War. Patric Pepper and Reginald Harris were featured. And of course there was an open mic. I liked the open mic and featured poets. The highlight for me was Reginald Harris’s reading.   I was really impressed with his poetry and delivery.  The low point was getting a call from my wife to run home because our hot water heater was turning our basement into a swimming pool.

In the open mic I did Prophecy and To Albert.

Poetry in Baltimore – 2nd Sundays – December 14th

December 17, 2008

This was my first time at Minas, it is a nice space for smaller readings.  This reading was a Benefit for Hearts Place Shelter, you can still donate just follow the link.  This reading is reviewed on the poetryinbaltimore forum so I will only mention what my personal favorites were.  I liked most of the open mic poets, my favorite were the two women who read together a poem that updates the Persephone myth.  I liked Miriam Botwinik reading which focused on childhood nostalgia.   I also liked Ron Williams performance poetry pieces.  

Overall there was a strong left-liberal political focus in the poetry.  I was okay with it until one of the featured poets pulled out a copy of the Revolutionary something or other and starting reading a piece of political polemic.

In the open mic I read Bad Speed Date and Bryce Remembered.

Art of Conversation – December 13th

December 15, 2008

There was a big crowd at the Art of Conversation.  It was standing room only for late arrivals.  Mo’ Optic was the featured poet.  I was really impressed with her poetry and delivery.  I especially liked the unique musical quality of her delivery.  Unfortunately she does not have a web site, or CD yet.  There is a CD on the way.  So you will have to be patient.

I got a very vivid reminder of the power of words when a poem that I read touched a raw nerve.  Unfortunately, it was not the nerve I was planning to touch.  I am not going to get into it here except to say that it is a cross-cultural poem that involves three cultures and there is certainly room to offend each of the three if done wrong.  So when I figure out how maintain the edge while still get folks to hear my point I will put it online.  But for now you can see the other poem I read Solstice.

There were a number of strong poems in the open mic.  The most interesting turn of the evening was an impromptu freestylin’ dual between that started at the end of the last poem.  The poem was by a male poet whose refrain is “when you gonna give me some ass”, needless to say it was not the most popular with some of the women.  Mo’ Optic took up the challenge and E stopped it after Mo’ scored a TKO.

Patricia Smith and Cave Canem Reading – December 7th

December 10, 2008

This was an incredible reading at the Pratt Library.  According to their web site “Cave Canem is committed to the discovery and cultivation of new voices in African American poetry.”  As the moderator, Reginald Harris, pointed out Cave Canem poets do not have a single style.  There was approximately 10 poets that each read for 5 minutes, unfortunately I do not have their names.  (There was no program for the reading.)  All I can say is that each was interesting and several were quite powerful.

The main event was Patricia Smith who is an established poet & slam champion.  This was her first reading where she exclusively read from her book “Blood Dazzler”.  This book is a collection of poems about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.  The reading like the poems was impressive.  Even reading her poems from behind a lecturn on a stage she was able to channel her poems.  In some poems the narrator is the Hurricane itself and in others it is the voices of its victims.  Her hurricane narration was quite chilling and her narration of the voices of the victims was convincing.

The only downside of this event to me was the turn out.  There was a decent number of people there, but given the number of people who were on stage the number should be higher.  I was impressed how few people in the local Spoken Word scene have heard of Patricia Smith.  I did not recognize one person at the reading.  I am not blaming anyone, but I wish that the poetry world was less fragmented. 

If you are interested in seeing Patricia Smith without journeying far away or going back in time look on the web.  She has a number of pieces on Youtube and also on Borders Open Book Poetry.

The Art of Conversation – December 6th

December 8, 2008

Big crowd at The Art of Conversation last Saturday night.  Omekongo Dibinga was featured.  I liked his world-wide focus, his inclusivity and his strong delivery.  He had poems on how Africa is portrayed in the media, the situation in the Congo and on poets on ego trips.  A lot of people read / performed.  Among other highlights several strong poems about women overcoming domestic violence.  A young woman who is a Senior at Hopkins sang, she has a great voice and her own style.

I read Bryce Remembered.

VERBATIMondays December 1

December 7, 2008

This was a big week for me – out for three events this week.  This is my first time at VERBATIMondays and I was glad I went.  The feature was Influence who gave an inspiring performance.  At least half of those performing have been/could be featured.  Unfortunately a number of poets were having trouble remembering their work.   But a number of poets were right on.  One young woman (I am sorry I don’t have her name) was so inspiring that Love the Poet tossed her her pen.  There were a number of exceptional theatrical poems including ones by One Wise African & Lamont Carey.  Even Aquil Mizan got into the act and did a stage fall.   There were also several powerful sung poems.  Other performers tonight included Rebecca Dupas, Labtecwon and E the Poet Emcee.   I also learned an important lessson: never chew gum while performing.

I did two of my poems “Prophecy” and “Christina’s World”