Emergency poetry stash to help community recover | News from the community of St. Tammany


Disaster recovery usually provides the necessary food and water, but a group of artists from St. Tammany also wants to meet another essential need: poetry.

To do so, Slidell poet Dennis Formento said the international celebration of “100,000 Poets for Change” will continue to help recovery from Hurricane Ida and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“People love poetry and it shows faith in turning things around,” he said. “It’s vibrations; the air passes through your body and makes you feel something incomprehensible. Those who write and those who listen are elated.

The “100,000 Poets for Change: Northshore Picnic of Reading and Poetry” will be held outdoors on September 25 from 5:30 pm to 7 pm at the grounds of the Women’s Center for Healing and Transformation in Abita Springs.

The public is invited to the free event at 71668 Leveson Street and must bring folding chairs or blankets to sit on. Masks and social distancing will be observed, and those unvaccinated or at risk are encouraged to watch online instead.

The program will feature local poets, as well as guest artist Gabor Gyukics, who has been named the Hungarian Beat Poet. There will be an open mic and poets can come early to register for a limited number of time slots.

Diane Elayne Dees, of Covington, is one of the local published poets who will participate. Dees said she tried poetry about 13 years ago “just to get me to write” when she experienced a dry spell in her career writing creative non-fiction and short stories.

But what started as a writing exercise quickly turned into a love of form.

“I really like the words, I like the sounds and the music. Poetry is a distillation of rhythms and sounds. I really liked it, ”she said.

Dees has a book of poetry, “Coronary Truth,” published by Kelsay Books, and two more in preparation. “The Last Time I Saw You,” a collection of poems in honor of the late New Orleans art critic and photographer D. Eric Bookhardt, will be published this year by Finishing Line Press. His microchip, “Pandemic Times”, is a foldable one-page poetry book from the Origami Poems project.

“The important thing is poetry. It’s something that belongs to the public, not something we do in private, but with sound and human voice, ”Dees said.

Slidell’s poet Maggie Sorrells, 88, will also read. She remembers writing her first poem when she was 10 years old. She was encouraged by her high school English teacher to enter a contest, and she won.

“Poetry is something I’ve always done,” said Sorrells, who has a self-published poetry book available on Amazon and enough material for a second.

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“Poetry has been a lifeline,” she said. “Since my forties (COVID-19), I have added to the collection and revised poems.”

As a member of the Live Poets Society of Slidell, she has helped bring poetry to senior centers and adolescent treatment centers. In the process, she discovered that poetry is both personal and public.

“I write because I have something to say,” she said. “We like to feel that energy when (people) read something and all of a sudden they get it, they understand what you are saying.”

Sorrells can’t wait to read with Gyukics.

“I have a rhythmic poem that will fit in well,” she said.

Other poets will include Orisia Haas, Ashley Schilling and Eve Brouwer. The musical duo Raíces, with dancer Catalina Reyna, will also perform.

Gyukics is touring the United States after his designation by the National Beat Poetry Foundation. He has written a dozen books of poetry, including “A Hermit Has No Plural”.

Gyukics also translated the new book “They Will Be Good for the Seed: Contemporary Hungarian Poetry” and previously “Hungarian Swimming in the Ground” with the late Michael Castro.

Formento’s books include “Looking For An Out Place” and “Spirit Vessels” with FootHills Publishing. He is the editor of “Mesechabe: the Journal of Surregionalism” and was commissioned by the St. Tammany Parish Arts Association to write the commemorative poem for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Formento said that Gyukics’ participation in the event shows how American poetry “broke language barriers and touched people.”

“It’s part of the social life of poetry,” he said.

For more information or a Zoom link, email Formento at [email protected] or visit facebook.com/100ThousandPoetsNorthshore.

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