When the summer heat builds up in layers, it seems like each day leaves behind just a little more humid, baked stillness. If you're a kid, you just don't know what to do with yourself, and if you're an adult with synapses still sparking, your mind aches for something special to do on long shady afternoons or evenings at the water's edge. Why not write something creative, hot-wire the imagination and rev up the word engines of desire? But how to begin?
First you could read poems by the likes of Basho, Emily Dickinson, Sonia Sanchez or Frank O'Hara for inspiration; or you might try attending a poetry workshop organized by "Poet in Residence 1998," a program co-sponsored by the Detroit Public Library and Broadside Press of Detroit. Now in its sixth year of presenting free workshops by Detroit area poets at public library locations both in Detroit and the suburbs, this series of nurturing sessions and inspiring instruction will welcome you with open arms.
There's a wonderful, cooling sensation as you walk into the library lobby, cross the marble floor and head for the stacks of fantasy and wisdom. At 29 different library locations across Detroit and southeast Michigan (17 of them in the city itself), that feeling is augmented by your anticipation of a rapping, rhyming good time with language. Dynamic poets like Aurora Harris, Leonard King and Melanie Van der Tuin stimulate writing and performance in their poetry workshops. In Hamtramck, you can work with Vievee Francis, in Rochester Hills with Margo Lagattuta, in Oak Park with Al Ward and in Royal Oak with Joan Gartland. In all, 27 different poets bring a wide range of approaches and personal styles to the workshops, 70 percent of which are oriented toward children.
At the Detroit Main Library's children's department, Wil Clay combines art and poetry Thursday afternoons, while upstairs in the Art & Literature department Elizabeth Socolow works with adults on Wednesday evenings. Over at the Duffield Branch on West Grand Boulevard, Michelle McKinney emphasizes storytelling and poetry in performance. And seniors and shut-ins at four different sites are visited by Murray Jackson.
Funded by a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts, and with the support of the Friends of the Detroit Public Library and suburban libraries' Friends organizations, this unique variation on the poets-in-the-schools-and-community idea is directed by M.L. Liebler, a poet and performance artist who seems to be three different people when it comes to energy.
Liebler notes some new wrinkles this season: A number of collaborative workshops are slated with the Detroit Dance Collective -- and public libraries in Eastpointe and Oak Park have joined the fold. Also, the Oak Park library will host two Sunday 1:30 p.m. performances, the first on Aug. 2 by poet Chris Monhollen and Liebler's Magic Poetry Band, to be followed on August 23 by Detroit playwright Bill Harris, with blues singer and WDET-FM program host Robert Jones.
As the poetic vibes of summer spread across our deep green, water-bounded corner of the state, you know you've got to act now, so call the Writer's Voice at 313-267-5300 ext. 338 for registration information. Or pick up a brochure at any Detroit Public library or participating suburban library location. And write on!George Tysh is Metro Times' arts editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org