May 12, 2022

The Day – Arts Cafe-Mystic presents the community poetry project “In This Together” on Thursday

April was indeed cruel whether TS Elliot had something to say about it or not. March was cruel and May is likely to follow suit.

Only April, however, is National Poetry Month, so with the cancellation of the Arts Café-Mystic’s spring performance program due to COVID-19 issues, director Lisa Starr, as well as council administration and community volunteers go virtual.

At 7:00 p.m. Thursday on the organization’s website and Facebook pages, they premiered “In This Together,” a video compilation of poetry readings and musical performances hosted by various members of the supporters and supporters community. guests of the Arts Café-Mystic.

The idea is loosely based on “The Favorite Poem Project” by former American poet laureate Robert Pinsky in 1977, where randomly selected citizens were encouraged to read and share their favorite poems. For “In This Together,” Starr put out an open call for volunteers who, in home quarantine, would record self-readings of favorite poems or sing favorite songs and briefly explain why the work resonates.

She ended up with 31 contributors, including, in addition to herself, established poets such as Stephen Dobyns, Coleman Barks, Gray Jacobic, Café founders Melanie Greenhouse and Christie Max Williams, and poets originally scheduled for March and April of the Café, Carol Ann Davis and Elizabeth Thomas.

Lay writers participating are two nurse practitioners (Cate Moffett and Alyson Silverberg); an architect (Tracey Dillon), two of Starr’s former English teachers at Ledyard High School (Louis Gabordi and Charlie Ewers); a life coach (Larry Krips); a student (Kylie Heard, 2020 Poet Laureate for Fitch High School); a minister (Stephen Philbrick); a lifeguard (Sam Fusaro); and former Day columnist Steve Slosberg.

Some of the artists covered in song readings and performances include Anne Sexton, Rumi, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Seamus Haney, William Butler Yeats, Mary Oliver and Bill Withers.

“The Poetry IS community,” says Starr, “and I wanted this video to reflect the community dynamics of the Café. If you’re a regular, you see a lot of the same faces at our events. They are often seated in the same seats at the same table, and it seemed like a great idea to get to know each other more. More than ever, during this crisis, the idea of ​​strengthening the community and seeing yourself in a different light is affirming and important. “

When the virus hit, Starr and the board debated whether to showcase the April and May programs online. “To me, however, it only seemed to reinforce the isolation,” Starr says. “It seemed to increase the pressure on poets and musicians to compromise their performances in perhaps awkward ways. And community collaboration seemed more fulfilling.”

“In This Together” lasts approximately 105 minutes. Starr asked participants if they could limit their contributions to about three minutes each, and she said it was fun and informative to work on the choreography for the video because, whether a reader is a “big hitter” or an amateur, the contributions were sincere.

“There are different levels of delivery, but that’s part of why it’s so emotional,” Starr says. “You see and learn so much about these people – and why poetry is important on so many levels.”

Ideally, Starr says, “In This Together” would have been completed and released sooner. “The truth is,” she admits, “our technical skills are mediocre at best and some of them have become overwhelming.” She reached out to Shawn Greeley and Liam O’Donnell at Groton Municipal Television, the station that broadcasts archived Arts Café-Mystic performances, who then worked their editing and computer magic to make Starr’s shot come true.

“Everything will be on tonight at 7 pm,” Starr says, “and part of the idea is the hope that several of us are all looking at it at the same time. But it’s as nice to know as it is. anyone can to see it move forward. And that, hopefully, we will do it again. “

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