In a city holding one of the most successful creative writing programs in the nation, consistent and attractive literary events must be available for students and faculty alike to exhibit their projects and seek inspiration. Since the economic downturn has threatened so called “frivolous and extra” curriculums like UH’s creative writing program, accessible artistic productions are more crucial now than ever in guaranteeing the preservation of a diverse and opportunistic education. Thus enter foundations like Public Poetry. Although Public Poetry is infantile aside some of Houston’s more robust organization, they have quickly become a stable patron, encouraging and cultivating the writing scene in Houston.
Every first Saturday of the month at 2pm Public Poetry harnesses writers local and distant to read their collections and interact with attendees at alternating libraries. This not only exposes Houston to new and old writers of all different styles, backgrounds, and personalities, but also brings aspiring students together- exciting one another with their interest, ideas, and passions. And while Public Poetry has just surpassed their one year anniversary this very spring, they have already achieved praise by Houston Press as “Best Reading Series” of 2011. With some prolific plans ahead of them for 2013, including but not limited too, allying with Houston Media Source and Dos Gatos Press (Austin publisher of Texas Poetry Calender and Wingbeats: Exercises and Practice in Poetry), as well as becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Public Poetry is doing their share to stimulate Houston’s creative brain.
To conjure up a more in depth word on Public Poetry’s functionality and poetry’s pragmatic place in society, founder Fran Sander’s was kind enough to answer a few questions:
How and why did Public Poetry get started?
From 1995-2011, Fran Sanders, Public Poetry’s Founder and Director, volunteered at Taping for The Blind, where she produced and presented The Poets’ Corner, a half hour radio program broadcast ever other week. In 2009, she switched from reading poetry to inviting award-winning published poets to record their own poetry, serving as host. With a background in arts administration, and having produced approx. 400 poetry shows for radio and recorded 60 poets, she decided to focus full-time on poetry, and founded Public Poetry.
How does Public Poetry go about choosing which poets will be reading at each session?
All poets read twice at two different library locations, six months apart, either for the Spring & Fall Series or for the Summer & Winter Series. A five person selection committee, with strong ties to the poetry community, chooses all the poets who read. Each volunteer on this committee nominates three to five poets, and circulates their bios and poetry to everyone by email. The committee meets in person twice a year to discuss and vote on these nominations. Committee members serve for one year only, then nominate their successors, so we always get fresh blood, fresh poets.
What is Public Poetry’s current view on the state of poetry in Houston?
Poetry is definitely alive and thriving in Houston, Texas! You can hear good poetry all over town – at independent bookstore such as Kaboom Books, Brazos Bookstore, River Oaks Bookstore; at readings presented by UH and Rice University; at monthly readings such as First Friday, Poison Pen, LitFuse; as part of Inprint’s series; and of course, the first Saturday of each month at the library with Public Poetry. Additionally there are open mikes where anyone can stand up and read their own poetry all over town. Public Poetry provides a monthly listing of all these activities on THE POETRY CARD – Readings Around Town. Look under the Community Links tab on our website, www.publicpoetry.net
In what way does Public Poetry believe poetry serves a community?
Poetry is a fabulous, low-cost, no-cost, creative outlet for people of all ages and inclinations. Poetry can get you excited; poetry can make you think; poetry can tap into emotions; poetry can touch your soul; poetry can be therapeutic; poetry can be a serious art form; poetry can be a fast read; poetry can be a refuge from incessant information overload; poetry can capture the beauty and power of language in a way that nothing else can touch!
What would you like to see happen for kids in public education systems concerning poetry?
Poetry should definitely be part of every school’s curriculum at every level. It fosters creativity, critical thinking, quiet contemplation and is proven to boost intelligence! [OK, maybe it's not been scientifically proven yet, but I'm sure it's true.]