Dennis Gulling has been a very respected poet nationally for a very long time. Even just doing a cursory search about him on Google I found entries in places as important as the Los Angeles Times. If you were to talk to someone in the know about poetry in any city in America they would probably know the name Dennis Gulling as one of the first generation Outlaw Poets. But here in Rockford he is relatively unknown. Why?
More on that later.
Xen Kingsley just won his first RAMI Award. He's a talented spoken word artist, writer, and musician. But that's only part of what he does. Right here in Rockford he lays down some mighty truths about life, wisdom, and race. Check out the line of Tshirts he helps create.
Travis Legge is a filmmaker, role playing game developer, and he does about fifty other things I can't even keep track of he is so prolific. He shot his first feature film, Raymond Did It, in the Rockford area. The sad thing is that he left the state to make his next film. The city, and it's decision makers and movers and shakers really need to do a better job keeping people like Travis Legge doing what they do right here in the Screw City, because we're all better for it.
Wayland Anderson. I was very impressed by a spoken word piece Wayland Anderson did at the Earth Day Poetry reading Richard Vargas organized at J.R. Kortman Gallery. He has a real passion and dedication to teaching ballet, and his studio is exactly what is needed in a neighborhood like Midtown trying to emerge from decades of neglect. The repeated refrain from his poem "ballet is in town" resonates at The Wayland Anderson Project on 4th Avenue. My five year old loves to take dance class from this motivated and skilled teacher who displays an enthusiasm that his students can't help but learn from.
Micky Rosenquist is another example of a dedicated and passionate teacher whose love of his art, music, rubs off on his students. His Rock and Roll Institute allows aspiring rockers to "Start a band on Monday…Play a show on Friday." An aspect of the Rock and Roll Institute I really admire is all the musicians from local bands that dedicate their time to teaching these kids how to play a rock and roll concert, which they do the same week, and as someone who has been in attendance, they do rock.
Michael Whyte is a singer/songwriter/guitar player who is probably most notably known for his band The Blind Robins. He has co-written songs with bands like E-I-E-I-O and one of his songs is on the soundtrack of the movie Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Before there was this new resurgence in Americana/roots/alternative country there was Michael Whyte, right here in Rockford.
Dennis Gulling has been here in Rockford all along, for over thirty years publishing his poetry on a national level, but remaining almost completely unknown locally. This week his first full-length book of poetry, The Blood Dark Sea, is available from local publisher Zombie Logic Press. You can order a copy here
I would like to expand this blog to include many more artists, musicians, teachers, restaurant owners etc that just aren't getting the kind of credit they deserve here in Rockford. Please do not consider this list anything but a first pass, to be added to, and updated.