Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rockford Poetry Is Alive Again

Suddenly the poetry scene in Rockford is alive again. With the hosting of the prestigious Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam, and the Wednesday night event planned at CNVR to discuss poetry and hold an open mic reading, the long dormant poetry scene seems to be awaking from hibernation.

Will it last? There have been short-lived attempts to create a poetry revival before, including the Bookworm Cafe, The Poetic Justice League, and a successful, well-attended series of reading at Cafe Esperanto in the early 1990's, but for some reason no one was able to maintain the energy level of the first couple of events.

Rockford poetry was front and center on NPR this winter when Jesus Correa's first book of poetry, Iced Cream, was featured on NPR's Winter Book Series. 

Iced Cream, by Jesus Abraham Correa VII, Zombie Logic Press 2014
One of the stalwarts of the Rockford poetry scene is Zombie Logic Press, in business since 1997. Recently they have begun publishing books exclusively by Rockford writers, and plan to publish books by Dennis Gulling and David Pedersen in the coming year. 

Other reasons for optimism in the Rockford poetry scene are young poets like Emily Sipiora, and the ferocious voice of Xen Kingsley, but ultimately it is always the audience that is the essential ingredient in creating a maintaining a vital literary scene. So, how can the literary community best foster interest in those who are not so inclined to attend literary events or buy the books local authors write? These are the eternal questions that plague anyone trying to sell people what they don't seem to want. I wish I could trust in the cliche answer that education is the key to creating new readers, but how can that be done when the teachers themselves are reading at a remedial level?

Is all lost for the poetry scene? Maybe not. In a forsaken literary outpost like Rockford there will always be those who make a valiant attempt to raise up the standard of literacy for others to see, but that struggle will almost always seem like a losing battle, and we'll lose most of our promising writers, like David Ensminger, to other places, but those who stay behind have always been a brave and noble bunch, even if their efforts have largely been in vain. I recommend Wednesday night at CNVR for those who'd like to get the ball rolling again, and Zombie Logic Press for those who want to see how it is already done.

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