by Adele Steiner
The February 6, 2011 Cafe Muse Poetry reading was a bittersweet celebration of the Maryland Writers’ Association anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems, because it was that last event in a series of over 20 readings in the Baltimore/Washington, DC, areas in 2011 and 2012. Almost a year after the book’s publication, Cafe Muse provided one last opportunity for some of the more than 50 Maryland poets published to get together, share their work, pay tribute to one of the poets in the Anthology who has since passed away, and just talk with each other about writing in general over the course of the year. The reading was also billed as Cafe Muse’s Valentine reading, and appropriately so, because there was certainly a great deal of love expressed between the poets and the audience.
The reading began quite befittingly with Shirley Brewer’s poem, “Kentucky Valentine,” read by her and Frank Joseph as a duet. An already original and delightful work, it was made even more so by their playful presentation! It seems that Frank loves to read Shirley’s poem whenever she isn’t present at a reading; so even though they were both at the Cafe Muse reading and wanted to read the poem, they compromised and read it together. What fun!
Frank Joseph also shared “Beauty and the Beast Visit Elizabeth Arden” and reminded us that it is a fable in it’s own right. It is filled with double meanings that run in tandem throughout the poem; and while they delight, they also provoke some serious human introspection as well.
Danuta Kosk-Kosicka shared some of her work in both Polish and English, providing the audience with the added benefit of the beautiful rhythms and music that is found in the language of her mother tongue. She impressed us further with her linguistic abilities and shared some translation work in Spanish as well when she read the beautiful and quiet poem, “San Luis Potosi: Beginning,”
Fernando Quijano III reminded us at the reading that we were almost at the peak of the full moon, so he wanted us to celebrate that, too, sharing his poem, “Lunacy.” What poet isn’t inspired by the full moon? I wondered if perhaps he was inspired by the Japanese poets of long ago who wrote poetry under the full moon at Renga parties because he gave us a most empowering poem to remind us of just what a wonderful Muse the moon can be.
Laura Shovan provided the audience with some background on the creation of Life in Me Like Grass on Fire, and in the process she made it ever so clear that the monumental task of editing the book was, indeed a labor of love. She also shared her beautiful love poems from the anthology, “Summer, Veils” and “Listening to Plants” before treating us to some of her other work including “Cold War” otherwise known as the infamous and provocative “merkin” poem.
On a more somber note, Laura and Shirley both paid a special tribute to Deborah Edelman, a poet whose work appears in Life in Me Like Grass on Fire and who passed away over the course of the book’s completion and publication. Deborah contributed the poems, “My Indian Chef” and “If Then” to the anthology. Shirley gave a heartfelt commentary on her personal friendship and experiences with Deborah as did Laura who also shared Deborah’s work. The reading with tribute was attended by Deborah’s husband, Joe, and his family.
All in all, the February 6, Cafe Muse was a celebration of love in a variety of its many forms — just like Life In Me Like Grass on Fire. So many thanks to the Maryland Writers’ Association and all of the wonderful poets who participated in the reading and made it so.