Poetry | St. Louis Public Radio

Poetry

St. Louis poet Mary Jo Bang discusses her latest poetry work, "A Doll for Throwing."
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with author and Washington University professor Mary Jo Bang about her work and new poetry collection, “A Doll for Throwing.”

Sept. 30, 2017. Dail Chambers works on a piece called A Song for the Black Rising at the St.ART event in Forest Park. Chambers the piece examines repetition and and reflects the current Stockley verdict protests and the 20th-century Great Migration of
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The two-day St.ART festival this weekend is billed as a street art event, but it takes places in parks, not streets.

It opened Saturday at Langenberg Field in Forest Park with local artists including Basil Kincaid, Cbabi Bayoc and Peat Wollaeger covering 8- by 10-foot canvasses with mostly black and white materials including paint, spray paint and quilted pieces.

The stark images represent deep divisions within the St. Louis community, said organizer Michael Tompkins.

“The segregation, not just in race, but also in the socioeconomic divide,” Tompkins said.

St. Louis poet Alison Rollins
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis poet and librarian Alison Rollins started along her poetry journey in high school at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves.

She is now a published poet, is pursuing a library sciences degree and is the librarian at the high school she attended.

File Photo. Alderman Terry Kennedy says the delay in naming a St. Louis poet laureate could stretch into next year.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When members of the Board of Aldermen created St. Louis' poet laureate position, they intended to promote unity. Indeed, inaugural official poet Michael Castro was lauded for building bridges with his words.

But now the post has become a lightning rod for disagreement. 

At issue is whether the task force that recommended Castro's replacement complied with the ordinance that established the position. If not, city aldermen want to know if that invalidates the task force's choice of Jane Ellen Ibur as the city’s next poet laureate.

File photo: St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said it would be unfair to appoint a poet laureate until the controversy is settle.d
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The delay in naming a new St. Louis poet laureate may soon be over.

in December, a poet laureate task force recommended local poet and educator Jane Ellen Ibur. The next step was up the Board of Aldermen, which oversees the position. But a dispute about whether the task force followed regulations has delayed the board’s vote for five months.

Board President Lewis Reed now says he believes Ibur will be offered the position. But first, he wants a board committee to look into the way task force chair Aaron Williams handled its affairs.

Poet Jane Ellen Ibur, seen here in a May 1, 2017 photo, has enjoyed a storied career. For nearly 20 years, she co-produced and co-hosted the local radio show "Poet for the Halibut."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis poet Jane Ellen Ibur is certainly a character. She's appeared before a class of children wearing a cape and carrying a magic wand. She sometimes wears two pairs of glasses at a time — one for distance, a second for close-up.

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated with information from the Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed's office — The St. Louis poet laureate position is vacant following the resignation of Michael Castro over the city's failure to pick his successor.

Castro, the city's first poet laureate, stepped down Thursday, noting that it was unfair for him to remain in the position when another poet had been named to succeed him.  In December, a committee recommended Jane Ellen Ibur take up the mantle.

But that choice was met with pushback by some members of the public, and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed has not moved forward on the recommendation.

 In this file photo, St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro talks with students at an event presented by the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation.
Photo provided by Adelia Castro

Some in the St. Louis poetry community are upset about a delay in announcing a new poet laureate.

In December 2014, Michael Castro was ushered in with great fanfare as St. Louis’ first official poet. It was a two-year term.

This past December, the head of the task force charged with naming Castro’s successor told poet Jane Ellen Ibur that she’d been selected. But she still doesn't have the job.

Choreographer Stephanie Martinez worked with Big Muddy Dance Company to create a piece inspired by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, who died in 1957.
Provided | Dance St. Louis

A 20th century Chilean poet who wanted her daughter to be more than just a princess is the inspiration for a dance performance on stage in St. Louis this weekend at the Touhill.

The dance that is rooted in the poem is called “Destino, Roto.” It’s one of three pieces in Dance St. Louis’ “Women Who Inspire,”  the name of the organization’s fifth annual New Dance Horizons presentation.

St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Bisa Adero and official Poet Laureate Michael Castro met each other awards ceremony on Oct. 14, 2016 at UrbArts.
Vincent Lang

Two official St. Louis poets don’t always agree on what’s appropriate but they do concur on at least one thing: If you want change, you've got to work for it. For this pair, words are the tools.

Poet Alison Rollins
Provided by Alison Rollins

“I realized fairly recently that I have to write. I am a poet and I claim that and it is a necessity. The same way I breathe, the same way I blink, it must be done.” Alison Rollins.

St. Louis poet Alison Rollins has won a prestigious 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship for young poets. 

St. Louis-based writer Jacqui Germain shared her poetry on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“I think of St. Louis as a place in which people are right next to each other and trying not to see each other at the same time,” said writer and poet Jacqui Germain, who has made her home here since moving from Ohio in 2008 to attend Washington University.  Germain has stayed in the area and her changing relationship with St. Louis is an integral part of her work, as is her activism.

Treasure Shields Redmond, her mother Elsie Lee Shields, and her grandmother Mary Shields. Meridian, Mississippi 1995
Provided by Treasure Shields Redmond

A St. Louis-area poet is lending her voice to the small but growing movement of activists calling for protests that disrupt U.S. society to spur social and economic justice.

Treasure Shields Redmond is a professor at Southwestern Illinois College and author of a book on civil rights trailblazer Fannie Lou Hamer. She is calling for a St. Louis-area strike by black workers during the Labor Day weekend. She’s calling the event Strike for Black Lives in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Treasure Shields Redmond and her book, “Chop: A Collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer"
Kim Love / Shields Redmond headshot

As a child in Meridian, Miss., Treasure Shields Redmond donned special shoes nearly every Sunday — a black patent leather pair that skipped after her mother as they walked to the Baptist church.

By high school, she’d traded her Mary Janes for Nikes, and hymns like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for Public Enemy's “Party for Your Right to Fight.”

The daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond is now a poet and performing artist, and an English professor at Southwestern Illinois College.  In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Shields Redmond about using language and song as tools for social justice and illuminating women’s lives.

Provided by Darian Wigfall

“Play All Trap Music/That's What We Want/Let it wash ya brain/All We Do Is Stunt.”

In the first stanza of a new poem, multimedia artist Darian Wigfall examines how corporations run by the wealthy profit from art forms they didn’t develop.  He says the work takes aim at corporations and wealthy classes that appropriate minority voices.

Wigfall turned his poem into a series of large-scale paintings currently on view at the Kranzberg Arts Center. The show is titled “Hidden Messages: The Subtlety of Oppression.”

poetry
Rachel Knickerman | Flickr | http://bit.ly/24icZgD

April is National Poetry Month and before we flip the calendar page, St. Louis on the Air wants to celebrate two local organizations working to make sure that poetry continues on in the lives of young people.

Listen to the full interview and hear poetry from the young poets themselves:

UrbArts VerbQuake Poetry Slam

William J. Clinton Presidential Library

This year’s Sundance Film Festival premiered a documentary about someone St. Louisans know and love: the incomparable Maya Angelou. The film is titled “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” and will have its St. Louis premiere on Thursday, March 24 at the Missouri History Museum, as part of Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive’s Henry Hampton Film Series.  It is the first documentary to be made about Angelou’s life.

Poet and spoken word artist Cheeraz Gormon has felt great pain.

She grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood of College Hill and remembers what it was like to hear the first gun shots ring out in her neighborhood in the late 1980s and the gang wars that erupted thereafter. She remembers when her brother, six weeks home from Kuwait, was murdered in Olivette. She remembers, most recently, when her baby brother was murdered on August 13, 2013, defending a woman who was the victim of domestic abuse. She most certainly remembers years of systemic racism she faced as an executive in the advertising industry and daily life as a black woman and activist.

But Gormon has also approached this pain with great love: a fuel for her poetry and spoken word performances that are capturing the hearts and minds of people around St. Louis.

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend poetry becomes a test of whether poets and poetry enthusiasts who follow a certain genre can cross cultural and stylist barriers in their art. The Brick City Poetry Festival is being presented as the first poetry festival of its kind in the St. Louis region. The goal? To bring together academic, spoken-word, young, old, and racially diverse poets in search of “human commonality.”

Ted Mathys
Durrie Bouscaren

St. Louis poet Ted Mathys has “Math” in his name -- and his background.

“I started out college as a math major. I’m really interested in precision and exactitude,” Mathys said.

Poetry eventually won out as an occupation, but give the word a prefix and math is a close second: a preoccupation. Numbers still figure prominently in his work, including his book to be released June 12, called “Null Set.” So does child’s play.

2013 7GP book cover
7GP

Seventh-graders are known for the outsized emotions that begin to grip their thoughts at the onset of puberty. But a program called the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation helps middle-schoolers express their feelings.

Michael Castro
Ros Crenshaw

This Saturday, St. Louis’ first Poet Laureate Michael Castro will publicly read his first official poem, commemorating the city’s 250th birthday.The reading will take place at a coronation ceremony from 3-5 p.m. at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.

Urb Arts fundraising poster
Courtesy of Urb Arts

Urban Artist Alliance for Child Development known as Urb Arts, a community arts organization, hopes to raise $72,000 in 72 hours. Founder MK Stallings said the money will fund the organization's purchase of a building in north St. Louis to remake as a new arts center.

“A professional performing arts center for community artists would elevate, I would say, the game for a lot of community artists in St. Louis,” said Stallings, the administrative and creative force behind Urb Arts.

Michael Castro
Ros Crenshaw

Updated to include Michael Castro's poetry and interview audio, and reaction from poet Shirley Bradford LeFlore.

Except for dotting the “i’s” and crossing a “t” or two, St. Louis has its first official poet.

Figuring Out What The Hell St. Louis Is Thinking

Nov 12, 2014
A typewriter for the "What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?" project sits in the Central West End in 2013. Passers-by were encouraged to anonymously share their thoughts.
Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio

In 2013, Henry Goldkamp decorated St. Louis with 40 typewriters. Each of the manual typewriter stations asked passers-by to tap out their thoughts.

Goldkamp dubbed the project “What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?” and has published a curated book of responses. The book, also called “What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?,” will be released on Nov. 22.

So what is St. Louis thinking?

Janae Wilson and Aaron Williams at the Sept. 19 Board of Aldermen Friday
Provided by Aaron Williams

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted Friday to approve the new position of poet laureate, but even before their approval, nominations were pouring in.

This past Monday, a website was set up for nominating candidates. Within just a few hours, several dozen names were submitted. Many are duplicates with at least one candidate named by 10 different people, according to Aaron Williams, who is set to chair the task force that will select the city’s official poet.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Poet Richard Blanco is best known for “One Today,” the poem he wrote and read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. Blanco was the first Latino, first immigrant and first openly gay writer to be commissioned as an inaugural poet.

St. Louis Seeking Its First Poet Laureate

Nov 3, 2014
Lewis Reed 2013
Provided by Lewis Reed

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is spearheading an effort to establish a poet laureate position in St. Louis.

Writers Define Poetry's Role In Today's Society

Nov 3, 2014
Brenda Clarke | via Flickr

Poetry is misunderstood.

“Poetry does have this reputation among the general public as being this highbrow kind of communication that’s only suitable for academic people and people of the intellectual elite, and is not relevant or needed for anybody else,” Missouri poet laureate Bill Trowbridge told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday.

Authors, Readers Prepare For Lit In The Lou

Oct 3, 2014

“St. Louis is kind of underappreciated as a literary city,” St. Louis author Ann Leckie said. “There’s the long history, but there’s also plenty of writers who are here now.”

That history, including authors like Maya Angelou and Tennessee Williams, and award-winning authors like Leckie are fueling next weekend’s Lit in the Lou festival.

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