The Literary Arts Section of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild Presented a Poetry Reading
by Diana Davis, Walrus Contributor
Tuesday, April 17 was a lovely day and a wonderful evening as well, as I spent it among the poets of the Literary Arts Section of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. The poets presented Still I Rise, a poetry reading at Oak Knoll Park in the Goldman Mansion. Set amidst flowers and foliage this was a perfect venue for the evening. Inside the stately mansion, poets and listeners gathered in a parlor to hear the words of modern and vintage poets. Cindy Fehmel, coordinator of the St. Louis Literary Arts section of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, greeted us warmly and invited Gail Marshall to begin the readings for the evening.
Gail Marshall read Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise with rugged determination as she spoke the words of a black woman who refused to bow to tragedies and heartaches, but instead chose to rise above her sorrows, to stand proudly, head held high. Marshall also read Alone, a poem about lying in bed ruminating about what is needed to gain a restful soul which ends with the realization that “nobody can make it out here all alone.” Later in the program, Marshall read After the Closing, written by John N. Morris in which Morris captures the bitter-sweet thoughts of a woman closing the door to her home for the final time after its sale – after the items that she has decided to keep have been sent on, after the items she has decided to leave as a legacy have been distributed.
The next reader was Jeffrey Ricker. Ricker has just released his first novel titled Detours, a road trip novel with a romance, a short story and a ghost tale all wrapped up inside. He read selections from Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy and The Eye Like a Strange Ballad Moves Toward Infinity. Bang, currently serving as the Director of Creative Writing at Washington University, wrote Elegy as a chronicle of the deep grief she experienced upon the loss of her son. The poems are mournful, yet they also demonstrate the power of memory to bring dead loved ones back to life. Joe Pfeffer followed Ricker.
Joe Pfeffer writes fiction and has published on-line in the U.S. and in India. He added levity to the evening by his amusing readings of T.S. Eliot’s The Song of the Jellicles, (cats) and Eugene Field’s poetry, Grandma’s Prayer and Wynken, Blynken and Nod.
If Pfeffer added levity, Chris Bauer added animation by performing Howard Nemorov’s poem, Walking the Dog, a delightful piece questioning who’s walking whom when one takes one’s canine friend outside for its “shitty” duty. On the serious side, Pfeffer did an outstanding job of T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi where one of the travel weary kings, who journeyed to find the Christ child, comes away in wonder, musing how it was possible that that he witnessed both life and death in one small face.
Matt Quinn followed Pfeffer by reading from two of his works, Lounge and It’s Like This about the feelings of an adult son in response to his mother’s death. He also read a couple of selections from Mona Van Duyn, Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri and The Burning of Yellowstone. Quinn is a free-lance genealogical researcher and has his own blog site: poemblaze.wordpress.com. He began writing when he was fourteen and never lost the bug.
Jane Wallace Reed came next. Reed is primarily a visual artist – a painter using acrylics and oils to create impressionistic landscapes. She has two pieces currently on display at Framations in St. Charles. Her work will be shown at Art St. Louis Downtown, in an event called BLUR in June of 2012. She is not untalented in the field of poetry either as she proved when she read two of her own works, Dogwood Trees and Mother. The latter is a tribute to Mother Theresa and included these lines, “She wore the hushed sandals of simplicity…in her dance through a life of births and deaths, causing smiles to spread like sweet butter under India’s sun.”
Steve Clark followed Reed. Clark is a talented playwright whose work, The Buffalo, was performed in October in the Spectrum Series at First Run Theatre. Black Oak Media has published two of his stories. On this night, he shared Sara Teasdale’s works. He was so determined to read her works that when his car failed to start, he set off at a brisk pace and walked the two miles to Oak Knoll, arriving in time to read The House of Dreams and Sunset. Ms. Teasdale lived in St. Louis and Sunset is her love song to the city wherein she states, “How many times I saw my western city dream by her river.”
Jeff Howe, who dabbles in poetry, read two poems by Donald Finkel. Donald Finkel taught at Washington University and was poet-in-residence emeritus there until his death in 2008. Howe read a bit of wit about Roxy’s Topless (a bar on the East side) and a more sober poem called, So Long. Howe also read two selections written by Carter Revard titled, Amandela of Sorts and What the Eagle Fan Says. In real life, Howe is a technical writer by day, and by night he is a novelist and short story writer. He has been published on-line in Untreed Reads.
Cindy Fehmel, the genius behind coordinating this delightful evening featuring St. Louis poets, many of whom had been associated with Washington University, closed the evening with the same grace with which she began it. Fehmel, who writes fiction, thrillers and mysteries, also rides herd on all of the poets, fiction writers, playwrights and non-fiction writers making up the Literary Arts Section. The Literary Arts Section sponsors a reading event about once a month. For more information, feel free to contact Fehmel at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on the list for upcoming events.
As I left Oak Knoll Park after this charming evening, I was stuck again by the amazing talents of people in the St. Louis area, both as writers and as performers, but mostly just as literary people willing to share and explore ideas with others who are interested in the same field.