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We’re Cooking Up a Feast of Words

It’s a poetry potluck with Sandra Beasley, Steven Leyva, Alan King, and Naomi Ayala in a virtual poetry reading from their own kitchens!

HoCoPoLitSo opens its 47th literary on Friday, November 5 at 7 p.m. with a virtual Poetry Potluck. Join Sandra Beasley, Alan King, Steven Leyva and Naomi Ayala, each live from their own kitchen, as they read and discuss a feast of food-inspired poetry, and maybe even share a favorite recipe.

As the 2021 Lucille Clifton Reading Series event, Poetry Potluck celebrates the beloved Lucille Clifton, HoCoPoLitSo’s longtime artistic director and first writer-in-residence in the Howard County School System. With technical and artistic support by Howard Community College’s Arts Collective, this year’s program features four writers who have also served as HoCoPoLitSo’s literary ambassadors in the school system.

The program honors 30 years of providing a writer-in-residence to the Howard County public high schools. The evening will also honor Howard County teachers with FREE admission* and a special message from poet Taylor Mali, author of “What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World.” (See video clip below for a little teaser.)

Poetry Potluck – Verse in Good Taste
Friday, November 5th at 7 p.m.

An Online Reading live-streamed from kitchens of poets and former writers-in-residence Sandra Beasley, Steven Leyva, Alan King, and this year’s poet Naomi Ayala.

10 general admission*
Reservations required via HCC Box Office

Click here to make your reservation: https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1080760

*Howard County teachers with a valid @hcpss.org email can request a complimentary ticket by emailing BoxOffice@howardcc.edu

Confessions of a Poetry-Phobic by Laura Yoo

The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from members of the HoCoPoLitSo board...

I’ve been a HoCoPoLitSo board member for several years now, but I am only now brave enough to make this confession: Poetry always scared me a bit.  FearPoetryAs an English major in school, I avoided poetry – I took the required Introduction to Poetry class during my senior year because I put it off ‘til the very end.  I was afraid.

But during the last few years, I’ve had real contact with (and real context for) poetry.  What I’ve come to accept is simply that when I read or hear a poem, either I get it or I don’t get it – either I feel something or I feel nothing.  And that’s good enough.

When Martín Espada came to Blackbird Poetry Festival in 2011 and read “Imagine the Angels of Bread” I definitely, most clearly, undeniably felt something. Oh yeah.  When Patricia Smith performed with the Sage String Quartet just last weekend, I didn’t just feel something – my mind was blown to pieces.  And when the pieces found each other again and returned to whole, it looked different. Changed.

All of this made me think about poetry and my fear of it. This thing that made me tremble in fear had been making me feel things all my life. It had introduced me to new ideas and paths, it had comforted me, it had fired me up, and it had given me peace.

My family moved to the U. S. from Korea when I was ten years old. During the first months of my life here, my fifteen-year-old cousin taught me the alphabet using the Dick and Jane primers (which are poetic in their own way).  It was also this cousin who introduced me to Shel Silverstein several years later, when she thought I was finally “ready” for poetry. I remember quite clearly how I loved the repetitive sound in this particular poem, “Ations”:

If we meet and I say “Hi,”
That’s a salutation.
If you ask me how I feel,
That’s consideration.
If we stop and talk awhile,
That’s a conversation

[…]

And all these ations added up
Make civilization.

Silverstein’s poems were my first introduction to the idea of playing with words to create meaning – and to make people laugh.

Next “poetry” came in the form of Macbeth in the tenth grade at Wilde Lake High School right here in Columbia. That Mr. Berkowitz was a tough teacher – he made us keep a journal documenting ALL of the imageries in the play. This arduous task illuminated all the instances of amazing things that words could do – like striking fear in the reader when Lady Macbeth speaks:

[…] Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, […]

 Macbeth sealed my fate – I would study English in college.

When I was in college, I discovered “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and it has become my favorite poem – the one that I keep in my pocket on Poem in Your Pocket Day every April.  It speaks peace to me.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

When I started teaching, Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” gave me a sense of justice. On those days when I felt knocked down by unreasonable students, failing students, mean students, nice but underprepared students, Mali’s poem gave me hope.

You want to know what I make?
I make kids wonder.
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.

[…]

I make a goddamn difference.

When a few years ago, my father died of cancer, I turned to Emily Dickinson, whose poems I had never been able to understand.  Her poems seemed like words that were almost randomly strung together with dashes.  But I realize now that I never “got” them because I never needed them before.

So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
Despair –

from “I cannot live with You,” (640)

I’m not a poet. And I don’t even claim to be a poetry lover. All I can say is that poetry has been in my life – it had been sneaking up on me now and then to guide me, to help me, and to change me.  And guess what? It has been doing it to you, too.

Laura Yoo
HoCoPoLitSo board member

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