By Emily J. Weitz
With flowers finally opening and springtime’s song in the air, it’s no wonder that April is National Poetry Month. And with the abundance of poets living and finding inspiration on the East End, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate the meticulously written (and spoken) word. From an artist’s ode to poetry on Shelter Island to a gathering of some of the East End’s finest wordsmiths at LTV in East Hampton, these two events offer distinct ways to honor poetry.
On Saturday, April 19, head to Shelter Island for “Muse to Muse,” a production of the Shelter Island Poetry Project, founded by Bliss Morehead. “Muse to Muse” is an opportunity to explore the relationship between poetry and visual art, as classic and contemporary poems inspired by great works of art are shared. Pieces by W.H. Auden, John Ashbery, Anne Sexton, and others will be read at 4:30 p.m., followed by a wine and cheese reception and art opening, which features nine Shelter Island artists.
“We will be reading the deathless poem by W.H. Auden, ‘Musee des Beaux Arts,’” said Ms. Morehead, “as well as ‘The Starry Night’ by Anne Sexton after Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the same name.”
Other poets included in the reading will be Frank O’Hara, T.S. Eliot, and Shakespeare.
“The fact is that poets have had a love affair with the other arts as far back as the artistic heyday of ancient Greece,” said Ms. Morehead, “and this genre has flourished over the centuries.”
She reflected on what has been passed down as the poems have survived centuries.
“There’s a rich trove,” she said, “of lively, witty, philosophical, moving art poems which are of course, always about something else as well.”
The following Friday, LTV in Wainscott will be the venue for the first annual Poetry Affair, an idea sparked by poet and artist Rosalind Brenner.
“I had done some readings at LTV for Tim Sullivan’s show, ‘Poet’s Corner’,” said Ms. Brenner, “and with the wide open space, I thought it was a great venue where the people were into poetry.”
She gathered some of the area’s most noted poets, including Grace Schulman and Julie Sheehan. Ms. Schulman has published six collections of poetry and is director of the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center. Ms. Sheehan has published three collections of poetry and is the director of the MFA Program at Stony Brook Southampton. Other emerging contemporary poets will share their work as well, creating an eclectic evening of words.
“Poetry is one of the brilliant art forms of our community,” Ms. Brenner said. “We have lots of art events and music events, but we hope this will become an annual poetry event.”
Ms. Brenner believes that readings like this one are a great way to appreciate poetry, so that listeners can hear the words rather than process them in the confines of their minds.
“Poetry is about voice,” she said. “To hear it is to hear the rhythm, beauty, music. It gives the poem clarity, and energy. To hear it brings the poem alive and the poet’s voice and words alive.”
Ms. Sheehan, author of three books on poetry, most recently “Bar Book” in 2010, adds that there’s a deep rooted history in reading poetry, and there’s power in that.
“Poetry has its roots in orality,” she said. “Hearing it aloud hearkens back to our ancestors. There may have been Neanderthals sitting around a fire making interesting sounds.”
A reading like this one is a way to participate in this oral tradition, and to connect us to our own history. But poetry also helps to mark the most significant moments in our lives, to celebrate the present in a poignant way.
“Poetry is used on the most important occasions in people’s lives,” said Ms. Brenner. “At weddings, funerals, graduations. People read poems that are apropos of occasions to stimulate the mind and the heart, and that’s a very important thing.”
Muse to Muse will take place on Saturday, April 19, at the Shelter Island Historical Society Havens Barn at 16 South Ferry Road. Doors will open at 4 p.m., and the reading begins at 4:30 p.m. The first annual Poetry Affair will take place on April 25 at LTV at 75 Industrial Road in East Hampton, and is a benefit for the East Hampton Food Pantry. People are encouraged to bring a donation. There will be a meet and greet with the poets at 6:30, and the readings begin at 7 p.m.