Last night at Starbucks on Broad in Sumter I began with excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." I read and the audience played along with me by saying in chorus the rhyming words.
I didn't choose Poe's poem for a beginning by chance. The Stanard name has a place in the story of Poe's life. When he was about fourteen, Poe was so infatuated with an older woman named Jane Stanard (the mother of his classmate) he wrote the poem "To Helen" for her. Though there's no evidence my family of Stanards from Illinois has any connection with Jane Stanard (from Virginia), I claim a kinship. After all, the name's not that common.
For the reading, I selected poems from my collection "Stealing from the Dead," which celebrates our rural heritage and records my impressions of friends and family now deceased. The poems I read:
about my uncle who died during an epileptic seizure
Shades of Gospel
preachers are salesmen or maybe demons
Born Again and Soul Food
two poems about edible and inedible Southern food
Porch Rocker, Ironing Clothes, and Weather and Time
three poems, thinking about my mom, dad, and aunt
I read for 20 minutes, which is a long time. After I finished, several people read one poem each (one chanted a "call and response") and that's a good arrangement. I think a poetry reading is more interesting with two or three poets taking turns to read a poem each.
Before the poetry, Steve Bennett performed songs he has written. He's a fine guitarist and I hope to see more of him.
Len Lawson has done a great job of developing How Sweet the Sound into a program where local talent can perform for an audience. My thanks to Len.