Associate Editor Marianne Szlyk writes about last week’s event at Bloom Bars.
One of the pleasures of living near a major city is discovering various neighborhoods and local institutions. This year I’ve begun attending Performetry: Old Poems, New Poems, Your Poems, an event held once a month at Bloom Bars, a DYI arts venue in Columbia Heights. This venue is a peaceful, old-school storefront on a quiet street parallel to 14th Street’s mix of big-box stores, hip eateries, and pedestrians with strollers and shopping bags. Unlike the cafes and restaurants that line 14th Street, Bloom Bars is alcohol-free. It is also family-friendly, and Performetry is very much a family event, run by local writers Elizabeth Bruce and Robert Michael Oliver. In fact, they provide home-cooked food (soup, bread, and vegan dessert) at their event for poets and audience members alike. The food is free although a donation of $10 is recommended for those who attend.
This past Sunday I helped to organize a reading from Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Israel/Palestine: Poets Respond, an anthology edited by my University of Oregon poetry teacher Joan Dobbie and her niece Grace Beeler. Performetry and Bloom Bars seemed a natural setting for this reading as they are part of the poetry scene related to Split This Rock, a political-poetry festival held in D.C. every other year. Joan and I, in fact, reunited at the 2012 Split This Rock where she and other poets read from the anthology.
This time around local poets from the anthology and writers/professors from Montgomery College read from Joan and Grace’s anthology. Potomac Review associate editor Stephen Bess reminded the audience of the works’ importance before reciting the three poems that he chose. History and Women’s Studies professor Jean Freedman juxtaposed a poem by a Palestinian with one by an Israeli with one by an American. She also wrote a song in honor of this reading, which she performs a capella. Poet and novelist Mike Maggio, also an associate editor at PR, set his two poems reflecting his experience in the Middle East, “Sunday Morning – Amman” and “Dirge,”alongside poems by other authors, including Sam Hamod’s poignant “There Must Be Something Dangerous About a Zoo in Rafah Palestine.” The engaging poet, playwright, and women’s historian Bonnie J. Morris concluded this part of the reading with her poems, one of which revealed how she chose a life of activism.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5HRviqeD2w?rel=0&w=420&h=315]
Although the audience was not large, as Sunday was Father’s Day, Performetry always provides a way for poets and poetry-lovers from different milieu to mingle and find common ground and ways to collaborate. Indeed, attending Performetry is a way to plug into the vibrant literary scene in DC, as Elizabeth and Michael also facilitate Writers on the Green Line, a literary workshop led by various local poets, and Performetry itself offers a chance for writers to perform at the open mic or even as featured writers. Elizabeth, Michael, and Sarah Pleydell are also teaching Acting for Writers Summer Intensive FLYER in B&W word June 21-Aug 16 2014 starting Saturday, June 21 and continuing through August 16 at Centronia at 1420 Columbia Rd., NW, in Columbia Heights (Washington, DC). ACTING FOR WRITERS will be a great way to engage live audiences and meet other writers in the area.
The next Performetry will be held on July 20 with Laneta J. Hill as the featured reader. The evening will also be a farewell party since she is moving to Newark, NJ. Performetry will resume in September.