Words into Readings

Last week I wrote about the fun of playing with words. That’s second nature to me as a poet and writer, as it is with every other poet and writer I know. Sometimes we’re lucky and those words fall into place and become stories and poems. If we’re really lucky those stories and poems end up in books.

The writer’s hope and expectation is that you’ll curl up in your favorite chair, or stretch out on a beach towel, and get lost in the worlds, lives, and drama we create. We hope you’ll laugh in the right places, cry in others, feel the tension in your body when our characters feel it in theirs, and ultimately cheer on and pull for the people we’ve lived with for so long.

We also want to connect with you as real, live people! Ask almost any writer or poet what one of their favorite aspects is about writing and they’ll say meeting their readers. If you’ve ever been to a concert you understand the energy that’s created by a live performance. It’s similar with a reading and open mic . . . okay, maybe the swaying flashlights on phones or lighters don’t come out, there isn’t crowd surfing or a sing-a-long, but there is clapping, laughter, and finger snapping! There’s still energy between the author and the audience. I promise. I remember one poet saying that while he memorized his poems as best he could, every time he recited them they were a bit different because of how he connected with the audience.

Almost ten years ago, members of three local writing groups – the Rock Hill chapter of the South Carolina Writers Association, the Luncheon Literary Society (whose name was taken from the wonderful book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), and the Thursday Night Poets – organized a monthly reading and open mic to share our stories with a live audience. Afternoon of Poetry and Prose was born.

logo created by Afternoon of Poetry and Prose regular, Julie Ann Cook

We began in a quaint little artists’ gallery, then moved to a communal meeting/teaching space, and finally found a permanent home at the York County Arts Council in Rock Hill. The format has stayed much the same over the years – we have a Feature Reader who gets to showcase their work for the first half, then after a brief break to stretch, mingle, and admire the art in the galleries, we re-gather for an open mic. One never knows what will be heard during that time!

At the top we have Joy, a spoken word poet who never reads from print. She brings humor and irony to current topics and relationships. In orange, Donna brings us ‘home’ to love of pets and family. Susan’s poetry rises from her deep faith and love of God. Eric’s dry wit keeps us laughing as he writes of the absurdities of life. Peter’s poetry often sounds like sacred texts as he writes of loss and nature.

Terry keeps us thinking as he re-tells ancient fables where monkeys are the protagonists. Bobbie’s sense of humor in her essays of daily events is balanced by her grace in the poems about her grief over the loss of her husband. Jonathan’s observations about the man on the street, the critters out in nature, the nuances of politics have all of us opening our eyes a bit wider. Mary almost dances as she reads of her love of the arts – especially dance. Julie has us in tears – both from laughter and from sorrow – as she tells of the playfulness, perils, and poignancy of being a mom to four boys.

We’re a die-hard group. Twice we had our dates mixed up and the Arts Council was closed. So for one we headed to a little French bakery and had a larger audience; for the other we read at an amphitheater where even Rock Hill’s carillon didn’t stop us – though the gonging did startle us a couple times. We’ve read during the high shrill whine of tornado sirens – we couldn’t leave the building at that point so we just moved to the basement gallery and kept reading. And COVID barely slowed us down. We canceled the schedule of Feature Readers, but once the Arts Council opened their doors with limitations, we were back with open mic.

Readings are an entertaining and insightful way to spend an afternoon or evening – even if you’re not a writer or a poet. Many of them are held in coffee shops or neighborhood bars so the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. And the events are usually free! I encourage you to check out opportunities to meet your favorite author, and opportunities to support your local authors and poets.

And if you’re ever in the Rock Hill area on Sunday afternoon of the second full weekend of the month, stop in and visit for an Afternoon of Poetry and Prose. The 2021 – 2022 season schedule of Feature Readers and their bios will be posted soon. It’s going to be another great year.

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3 Responses to Words into Readings

  1. Not enough is written about the spirit of these kind of readings! Even the online ones have helped sustain me with their freedom from geographical boundaries.

    • Edit to “these kinds.” I love how your group handled the scheduling snafu. Did you go online last year to continue?

      • Hi Roberta, you’re so right! I may have to do an update after we get going again and get some more pics of the events. Yes, we are a resourceful bunch and not easily deterred 🙂 It truly is the power of the words, and the spirit of the readings that bond us. Our poetry critique group met on line for 15 months or so, but doing the Afternoon of Poetry and Prose would have been a logistical challenge that none of us felt up to doing, especially in the beginning. When the Arts Council reopened, there was a core group of 4-6 who regularly showed up and read. With our schedule we were out only a couple of months.

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