Where One Road Ends, The Future Begins


Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

“Sometimes It Snows In April” – Prince, Wendy & Lisa

One of the downsides of sporadic blogging is that your latest post might end up completely contradicting your last one, and so, 7 months after my last, wherein I foolishly declared that I had fallen in love with poetry slam again, I’m genuinely excited by the announcement that louderARTS is coming to an end, of sorts.

What started as a bit of a lark back in March 1998when myself, Lynne Procope, and Roger Bonair-Agard took over the space at Bar 13 on Monday nights and started our own reading seriesnot only survived 16+ years in the deteriorating cultural landscape of New York City (and the fickle tastes of bar owners always looking for the next new shiny), but thrived, throughout myriad trials and turmoilssome external, some self-inflictedas a weekly oasis of poetry that occasionally bent but never broke.

Running a weekly anything is tough, but a poetry series is a uniquely rewarding thankless slog of a passion project that most people simply aren’t cut out for. Over the past 16+ years, I came and went a few times, as did Roger, but at the center of it all has always been Lynne, always, even when those around her thought they were, until they too moved on to something else, somewhere else.

Over the past year-and-a-half since I found myself drawn back into the louderARTS community, I’ve been reminded of the strength of Lynne’s shoulders, the steel in her spine, and most importantly, the genuine love in her heart for poetry. Everyone who’s heard her introduce a feature has witnessed the latter, but not nearly enough know her full measure.

I’ve often joked that I don’t really like poetry, but it’s not really a joke. I actually find most poetry overwrought, irrelevant, and/or self-indulgent (including much of what I’ve written over the years), but I’ve experienced enough exceptions to that rule to know that a great poem read well can be far more powerful than any other form of literature. I don’t live and breathe the form the way Lynne does, though, which is why my connection became so tenuous after the first few years: the thing that’s always pushed me away and pulled me back in, was the people, the community. And honestly, sometimes, people really suck.

Lately, what’s kept me around despite becoming disenchanted with that community once again, has been Lynne. And now she is finally taking a hard-earned, much-deserved, and long overdue step out of the center of that maelstrom and I couldn’t be happier for her!

I’m also happy for the community that currently gathers on Monday nights at Bar 13 under the louderARTS banner, too, because 16 years of anything can be a blessing and a curse. There’s a lot of baggage that piles up in the corners, and while I’d hoped rethinking the slam’s place might help air out some of those corners, sometimes you just have to evacuate the premises and burn the house down! (Metaphorically, of course.)

Much like when we first took over that space in 1998 from a fledgling series that had run its course, something new will surely rise from the ashes, freed from the baggage of the past, able to create a new space for the community that needs it, embraces it, and nurtures it.

And so, tonight’s showwith Mahogany Browne and Patricia Smith in the spotlight, along with some very special guestsis not only the last show of 2014 for louderARTS at Bar 13, it’s the last hurrah of an amazing 16+ year run, and I’m glad I’ll be there to witness it, honor it, and help lay it to rest.

For me, above all else, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the woman who kept it running when everyone else moved on, including me.

Thank you, Lynne! For everything.

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