Friday, April 16, 2010

Poetry Open Mic, Music, and More!

Sunday was a beautiful day. Sunny, flowers blooming...oh yeah, still can't get over Kristine Marinelli's ability to keep this hidden from me for so many months...beautiful cars driving slowly

by, taking in the sights and enjoying a spring day on Race Street in Frenchtown.

How appropriate that it's National Poetry Month and that The National Hotel would be carried into the month by the hands of those who write and read poetry, who took the time to organize, arrange, and participate in our first Poetry Open Mic.

We had the most amazing weekend at The National Hotel. When Pete and I started planning upcoming events, we had our “wish list.” Among them was our Open Mic Night where music would fill our grand old building. Another “wish” was to have poetry readings, so that local artists could have a venue where they could feel free to share their creative talent, express themselves, and enlighten those of us fortunate enough to be in the room listening.

However, Pete nor I could ever have envisioned the support we received from the community, and especially from our local Frenchtonians. Between Alex Wolfson, Banjo Bill, and Jesse Ketchel (among others stepping in & out of the picture when there were conflicts with schedules) taking the lead in organizing and hosting our Thursday Open Mic Nights, to now having Skye Van Saun (a poet, editor, author and teacher) with her partner in crime in this undertaking, John Smith (a Hunterdon County high school teacher and poet), to organize and host our monthly Sunday afternoon Poetry Open Mic, Pete and I are in awe of just how fortunate we are. As my mom said,

“How appropriate to carry forward the tradition of the arts that have been a center-point of The National Hotel for more than a century and a half. Writers put on paper what we all feel, what we wish we could say, what needs to be shared. What a wonderful experience to share with everyone.”

What’s next on our wish list? You’ll have to keep checking-in.

Our Poetry Open Mic launched this past Sunday with very little fan fare, no media coverage, no e-invites, no special planning…just Skye and John putting up flyers all over Frenchtown, and verbally mentioning it to people. How amazing to walk downstairs on Sunday at 2 p.m. and find that 10 people were already sitting in The Rathskeller Pub Lounge. And by 2:45, we had 40 people…STANDING ROOM ONLY!

The power of the written word, recited for all to hear, was mesmerizing. The beauty of the angst, the pain, the humor, and the tales of love lost, love gained, and love shared in a mere two hours of poetry readings, left us trying to figure out just what we’ve done right in some past life to deserve an afternoon filled with creative treasures within our reach. As Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music, “I must have done something good…"

The joy of listening to writers read their works, and to readers who read others’ poems that resonated deeply and profoundly with them, is a very personal experience. For both Pete and for me, poetry and the arts are a necessary part of life. Pete shared with Skye how his mom used to read poetry to him as a child. She is a wonderful poet, orator and has a memory for sharing stories and poems that is astounding. Pete can credit much of his ability to tell stories like no one else I’ve ever heard, to his mom. (Take that with a grain of salt, because he is my husband, but I really do feel that way). My own mom is a published author in my home country, Chile. To this day, I find poems, words, written and scribbled on scraps of paper near her bed when I visit her. Every time I read them, I can hear her voice and see the beauty of things through her eyes. Poetry has been a part of her life since her youth, and she always made it a part of my brother’s life and my own. Our daughter, Shiara, participated in a poetry anthology workshop in her old school in New York City, PS 6, The Lillie Devereaux Blake School. Her teacher submitted the work to the Anthology of Poetry book series, where her poem was published, which delighted my mom most of all. And our youngest, Laina, has a way of capturing the essence of what she sees in just a few words. I think her favorite poet to date is Shel Silverstein, and his book "A Light in the Attic." Wait till they both get to Edgar Allan Poe—I’ll need to take them to the famed street on the Upper West Side of New York City, where Poe lived and worked for many years and where Edgar's Cafe now stands in the spot where Poe had his farm nearly 200 years ago, at 255 W. 84th St. And what about Robert Frost…oh, there are so many wonderful writers and poets.

And oh, how many wonderful writers and poets abound in Frenchtown! If you joined us, you know that what I’m saying is the absolute truth. If you missed it, be sure to join us next month for the next installment. You missed witnessing young men, barely at the start of their 20s, filling the room with stories about their first true love or heartache, followed by a more “mature” poet, spilling her heart out about her ex-husband, or another one about her dead husband; the age range and depth of content was incredible. I created a little vignette of the poetry that was read on Sunday, can be found at the bottom of this post and on youtube too, but if you want to hear the entire poems, you'll need to join us next month!

It reminded me of the nights I’ve been in The Rathskeller with Pete and how we enjoy listening to the conversations of the 22 year-old customer talking with the person next to him who is 50 years his senior—but both are enjoying the same vibe and rhythm of conversation. Only in Frenchtown. Only at The National Hotel.

This was followed by yet another appearance of The Jericho Mountain Grass (“The Grass”), who wowed a room-full of diners with their new-age grass tunes and unique sound. It was a pleasure seeing them again following their last appearance in February. Our two daughters called it “foot-stomping happy” music…how true! Check out the YouTube clip for a little glimpse on The Grass's performance this past Sunday.

That’s what can happen at The National Hotel. This building is unique. It’s an institution. It’s a gathering place for all and a hub for town events—better yet, life events. This great old lady of a building creates the ambiance, the “seductive atmosphere” that a patron described just two weeks ago. She couldn’t get over how the building seemed to be alive, to draw people, to be inclusive and inviting. She found the entire building, with its historic charm to be a “seductive atmosphere.” You gotta love that! How fantastic that Pete and I are along for the ride.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, share a story, ask a question. Pete and I hope to see you soon, at The National Hotel. You never know. Pete might take the microphone next…