Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reading at Woodland Pattern + Poem: Ethelbert Miller

(Okay, I hope that this blog reappears after I've posted this, because I've been forced over to the new Google Blogger (after having tried it once and lost my blog for several days), but here goes....)

Friday, I was on the road again, this time to Milwaukee, to read at the extraordinary Woodland Pattern Book Center with poet E. Ethelbert Miller. Despite the fact that it's closer to Chicago than St. Louis, I'd never been to Milwaukee before. After my Friday office hours and a number of other university-related duties, I hopped on the road and made the short, easy hour-and-thirty-minute drive. I'd also never read with Ethelbert, though back during my Dark Room Collective days the rest of the writing group and I had been his guests at the Ascension Reading Series. Chuck Stebelton, who runs the Myopic Poetry Series in Chicago and runs Woodland Pattern's poetry series, invited us up, and was an exemplary host, as was everyone affiliated with the bookstore, including Anne Kingsbury, who wined and dined us in royal fashion (c.f. chicken potpies with our initials in them!).

The store, from outside

Woodland Pattern which is the kind of bookstores that many writers, especially poets, dream about. In addition to one of the best poetry collections in the country, the store also has racks and cabinets full of rare chapbooks and broadsides, and an exhibition space that features shows of original book and visual art, and a friendly, staff that knows quite a bit about arts and letters. Many of them are writers themselves. An exhibit of multimedia artist Joel Lipman's stamp poetry pieces graced the walls of the room where we read, and the book center has an online site with information about his life and work.

One of the rooms, with the chapbook filled file bureau at the center of the photo (that's Ethelbert at right speaking with a former DC resident)

The reading was really enjoyable and energizing; I was especially pleased at the turnout and at the enthusiastic response, and it was also wonderful to meet local poets like Rick Ryan and Shelly Hall. Ethelbert, who read second, found a way to tie so many common strands in our quite different work together, including our tributes to recently deceased like Phebus Etienne, our joint love of baseball, and W's ongoing, senseless vanity war in Iraq. It was also a joy to sell some books!

Post-reading confab (I don't know the name of the guy on the left, but from l-r are Rick Ryan, Dante [who'd visited with the Chicago poets I know a few years ago], Ethelbert, and Anne Kingsbury)

I told the folks at Woodland Pattern that I'd be back one of these days, and I intend to return and browse at length.

Here's one of Ethelbert's love poems, tender, epigrammatic and bearing added layers of meaning through the reference to none other than Mr. Sun Ra:


Love is the last planet in our solar
system. Your heart crying like the
rings of Saturn. How can we believe
in stars in this darkness? I watch
the sky for your return. Inside my
hands nothing but gravity.

Copyright © E. Ethelbert Miller, 2007.

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