The day prior to the start of PoetryLife, the weekend-long community initiative dedicated to all things poetry, the Booker Middle School Dragon Fly Café Poets will perform pop-up poetry. Georgia Court, owner of Bookstore1Sarasota and the creator of PoetryLife, says, “It’s going to be a real hoot.”
At 7 p.m. May 2, students will visit Two Señoritas, Classico, Epicure and Louie’s Modern, where they will simultaneously read poetry inspired by the restaurants’ dinner menus.
“Poetry really allows you to think of each individual word, what it means and what you’re communicating with that word,” Court says. “These beautiful words hang together in a beautiful way. These aren’t just words on a page.”
Poetry hones critical thinking, Court says, because the reader is forced to contemplate words in a concentrated and logical way. Critical thinking helps one develop the understanding of words and communication, a necessary tool for any individual’s success.
Court says this idea is why poetry education is important. The PoetryLife weekend, held May 3 and May 4, encourages this idea. Court believes there are some educators who incorporate poetry into their curriculum, and she wants to recognize them and hopes to encourage others to do the same (Court was a former English composition professor at the University of Cincinnati). Local educators who go above and beyond will receive a complimentary dinner and entertainment from visiting poets May 3, at the Above and Beyond Dinner.
“Its primary purpose is to really encourage teachers in middle and high schools to teach poetry,” Court says about the weekend.
The idea for the weekend started with a visit from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky last May. Pinsky visited Sarasota with his Favorite Poem Project, during which community members read aloud their favorite poems and explained their reasons for liking the poems. It’s a project that’s taken place more than 1,000 times around the nation with the goal to encourage poetry’s role in people’s lives.
This year, a Favorite Poem Reading is the centerpiece event of PoetryLife. It will be held Saturday, May 4, at Florida Studio Theatre. Like last year, community members and leaders, such as Mayor Suzanne Atwell, will read their favorite poems.
But, instead of Pinsky introducing this year’s event, former Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin will take over the job. And one of Court’s favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, will close the event. These two poets will attend the four events that make up PoetryLife. (See box for event list.)
Last year, Court was the first reader in the Favorite Poem Project. She read, then sat back in her chair and watched the audience. She says they weren’t wiggling or twitching. She demonstrates the audience members’ faces by widening her eyes and dropping her jaw.
“You could almost hear them think out loud, ‘Who knew?’ And that was the most fascinating part; they were fully engaged,” she says.
Court fills her bookstore’s shelves with more poetry books than is typical of other bookstores — a decision she made when first opening in March 2011.
Court had frequented the beloved independent downtown book retailer, Sarasota News and Books, before it closed in August 2009, and because she desperately wanted a downtown bookstore, she opened one. She hired the former manager of Sarasota News and Books, David Chaplain, to manage her store. When they were ordering their first shipment of books, Chaplain called a California distributor to order a lengthy list of poetry books, many of which lesser-known poets penned.
“The next day, the distributor called David and asked, ‘Are you sure?’” Court says with a laugh. “He couldn’t believe that a bookstore would order that many poetry books.”
Court considers Bookstore1Sarasota a “proper” bookstore.
“We’re not some old big box with a big coffee shop and walls and walls of toys and tchotchkes,” she says.
Since opening Bookstore1Sarasota, Court has doubled her inventory, sales and events. It’s an indication that reading — and poetry — are alive and well in Sarasota, she says.
“It’s (poetry) an artform that enhances our lives, just the way beautiful paintings enhance our lives, or music enhances our lives,” she says.
if you go
Bookstore1Sarasota, Florida Studio Theatre, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Sarasota Reading Council sponsor this community event.
Above and Beyond Dinner
When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 3
Where: Florida Studio Theatre, Court Cabaret, 1241 N. Palm Ave.
Young Voices Poetry Reading
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: Florida Studio Theatre, Keating Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave.
Favorite Poem Reading
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: Florida Studio Theatre, Keating Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave.
Cost: Tickets $12
Young Poets Celebration Dinner
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: The Francis, 1280 N. Palm Ave.
For more information on all events: Call 365-7900 or 366-9017
by W.S. Merwin
It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
and I am a child before there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow
voices murmur in a shadow
as I watch one patch of sunlight moving
across the green carpet
in a building
gone long ago and all the voices
silent and each word they said in that time
while go on seeing that patch of sunlight
Reprinted by permission of Cooper Canyon Press from, “The Shadow of Sirius,” 2009.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from “Fuel: poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.” 1998.
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