Still time to register for the memoir and poetry class at the Howard County Library. See details below. I’ve included links for registration and directions for your convenience. Hope to see you there! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Happy June, everyone!
Exploring Boundaries: The Intersection of Memoir and Poetry
Howard County Library: East Columbia Branch, Marvin Room
June 26, 2018 6:30-8:30pm Click here to register
Have you considered writing a memoir but are wondering where to begin? Join memoirist and poet Ann Bracken for a workshop that will give you a head-start on some vital and universal themes in memoir.
Driven by the belief that pain shared is pain lessened, this event flips pain on its head, and offers an upbeat, joyous occasion to know and feel our connections with one another and hold on to hope. Featured presenters include spoken word artist Kondwani Fidel, poet Ann Bracken, singer Simone A. Speed, and others.
I first met Alonzo LaMont when both of us were involved in a program call The New Day Campaign, a series of events to help de-stigmatize mental illness and addiction sponsored by local artist Peter Brunn. Alonzo LaMont read part of his one-man show called B-Side Man which dealt with his musings over life, career and the tragic death of his son. I was struck by Alonzo’s wit and his willingness to share his very moving story as part of the campaign.
The other day in Starbucks I came upon a rare sight indeed. A mother (I assumed) was reading ALOUD to her young son. Everyone else had their laptops propped, and they were entranced. Full-blown hypnotics, caught in a cult of self-divinity. Drenched in — the look. You know that look. You’ve seen that look. It’s where someone’s face is ever-so-delicately lit by the glow from the gadget. One dare not speak. One dare not interrupt. It’s a life and death scenario. Chances are that illuminated face is more serious, more intent, more purposefully driven than all the other faces you may see on any given day. The glow from the gadget produces the Starbucks Rapture Face. Those faces and all that purpose must surely be engaged in some higher conflict, some deeply internal mystical adventure. If you’ve ventured into any Starbucks in the last — I don’t know how many years — you’ve probably also caught those same faces and busy-bee facades. How could you not see? They’re practically etched into our consciousness. Those faces say “Do Not Disturb. Can’t you see I’m exploring a higher realm?! I’ve a screenplay. Things for my calendar. Recipes. Flirtations. And all manner of correspondence to respond to!”
And then there was the mother I saw reading aloud. She was breaking the code. I stopped by and complimented her on creating such a rare sight. She explained that her oldest had read this same book and didn’t like it. She wanted her youngest to have a more genuine connection to what the book had to offer. I told her that my mother used to read quietly to to me, and usually not in public. But I didn’t want to intrude any further so off I went. She started up right where she’d left off, and her child’s gaze went back to the pictures and the words his mother was illustrating.
I believe we’re conditioned to witness everyday scenes pass before us in a particular slideshow. It’s only when one of the slides goes off the rails that many of us ask, “What was that?”. For instance, if you’re a bicycle rider and during your commute someone pulls up next to you and actually speaks. More often than not, other riders wear the dour countenance of children forced to eat their asparagus before they can leave the dinner table. A supermarket shopper in the same aisle who says “Hello” makes us practically shout “What’s that all about?”. Expressions of greeting or warmth feel ancient and out of place. For most of us, our everyday life becomes a bunker that requires an ever-watchful mental sentry to fend off the slightest gesture of welcome. And to be extra vigilant for those who could be leaning towards conversation. At my job many folks devote their lunch hour to fitness. Fluorescent sneakers proliferate, gadgets are checked, and if they’re walking with a friend— apparently the act of smiling breaks some kind of unspoken treaty.
And yet, through all this….I found a woman reading aloud. It could be years before this occurrence re-appears. Civilizations may rise and fall. A tree may or may NOT grow in Brooklyn. Laws of Physics may be broken. But, perhaps another person will read aloud, and the glory of hearing language and storytelling will make someone else appreciate one of the “lost arts.” Perhaps another person will have their day filled with the brilliance of such a small but powerful moment. Books and reading continue to do that. Language and ideas and sharing have always existed in these kind of sacred ways.
We just have to keep an eye out.
Alonzo LaMont, Jr. is a Playwright who’s had his work produced in D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, New York, Amsterdam, written for network TV, won grants, gotten awards, been on the big stage, the little stage, and all points in-between. He’s taught college, served as an invited guest on arts & writing panels and workshops, but is happiest creating, directing & crafting freelance projects. His most produced plays include: “That Serious He-Man Ball,” & “Vivisections From The Blown Mind.” “He-Man Ball” was published by the Dramatist Play Service, and “Vivisections” was published by the Theatre Communications Group “Plays In Process” series. Alonzo performed his latest play “B-SideMan,” at The Tank in New York City this past November, and also performed “B-Side” at the Charm City Fringe Festival this past December in Baltimore, MD.
Alonzo directed and co-wrote “Telling: Baltimore” in 2014, (“Telling” is a national organization that presents the stories of Veterans who’ve participated in military service) and he continues to work with the Baltimore City Dept. of Health writing scripts for their “Waxter Wisdom series.
“Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?”
~”Seasons of Love”, from Rent
“I love the song “Seasons of Love,” and I remember humming along with it well before I ever saw Rent. The opening lines came back to me when I began to think about how to measure my first year with a published book. Was it really only a year ago that I had my opening reading on a cold February night at Zu Coffee in Annapolis? Cliff Lynn and Rocky Jones emceed the evening, with Cliff introducing the readers and Rocky providing music with his bongos. So many of my friends came to cheer me on, and I have special thanks to each of them. To Grace Cavalieri for her unfailing support and belief in my work, to Laura Shovan for her keen insight and good ear, and to Debby Kevin for her help with marketing and promotion. My children were there at the first reading–Brian took care of video taping the reading and Christella sold the books for me so that I could talk to people while I signed copies for them. The evening was magical, and I was humbled to have so many folks attend my first reading and buy my book, The Altar of Innocence.
I think that I could perhaps measure the year in friends–old friends who have celebrated with me and new friends that I’ve met while doing my readings in Baltimore, Annapolis, and DC. To begin the list, I want to thank three good friends who are part of the meditation group that has become such a valuable part of my life.
Jane Nitsch and her husband, Gerry Cohee, have been steadfast in their support and love. Jane and Gerry invited me to read my poems as I was shaping them and they offered both critique and support in a safe atmosphere. Additionally, they hosted my book party last May, graciously opening their home to many other friends who attended my reading party. Thank you, Jane and Gerry.
Renee Rogers is another friend from the mediation group. Her special contribution came in the form of beautiful bookmarks that she designed and produced as party favors for all of the guests. The bookmarks are elegant and graceful, and now I give them as a special treat included with every book I sell. Thank you, Renee.
Barbara Morrison invited me to read with her and to design a program exploring memoir using our poetry. The program is called “Looking Back to Move Forward,” and we explore the themes of innocence, secrets, and burdens that emerge in both of our books. Barbara’s book, Terrarium, looks at her life through the lens of place. She does an amazing job of capturing both the joy and the sorrow of childhood as she leads readers to her favorite childhood haunts in Roland Park. Thank you, Barbara.
I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have come to my readings and shared their stories with me. It is deeply humbling to write a book that delves into difficult personal and family issues–alcoholism, depression, and verbal abuse–and to find that my stories touch my readers’ lives and create a bridge of experience that we can share. No writer could ever ask for more.
Here’s a shout-out to all of my guest-bloggers who have so faithfully contributed their talents and stories, helping to expand my readers’ horizons with their fresh perspectives. Here’s to Patricia Van Amburg for her thoughtful guidance as my critique partner and for the many hours she has worked with me to refine my poetry. Here’s to Peter Brunn of New Day Campaign, who invited me to be part of his work of using the arts to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction.
And lastly, here’s to my wonderful children, Brian and Christella Potts. They have always believed in my work and encouraged me to write poetry when no one else thought I could. Most importantly, Brian and Christella encouraged me to resist the urge to censor my story. I am so grateful for the advice that they both offered: “Mom, no one can tell you how to make your art.” Thank you, Brian and Christella.
How do I measure my past year?
In friendships, and laughter, and fearless abandon. It was all about love.