West Siders gather to share poetry and their lives

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Some arrived gradually. Others talked anxiously before the event began, a few reading carefully through the pages spread out in front of them.

The North Austin Public Library Poetry Group meets every other month to share and recite original and classic poems. But there’s more involved: the event is a place for West Side residents to meet and contribute to Austin’s creative diversity.

“I’m just gonna go with the flow and see how it turns out,” one woman announced from the podium, peering over the rim of her glasses and smiling.

The tables and chairs were set close so that everyone could be heard at Saturday’s event.

According to Doreen Ambrose, a founder of the group, this month’s meeting was about half the size of the usual gatherings. The nearly 20 people present fit perfectly into the library’s community meeting room; the group was expectant and attentive.

One poet, Frances Freeman, teaches sociology at Truman College and has been faithfully attending the poetry slam for the last year.

“It gives a sense of pride for the community,” she said. “With all of the things going on in the world, this is very positive. It’s an open platform.”

Made up of local residents, the group was wide-ranging.

Eight-year-old Michaela Ware read her original poems in a small, shy voice. She shifted nervously from side to side, at times stopping briefly, seemingly overwhelmed, before continuing. The room became a bit more still as the group, made up of adults and other children, paid close attention, urging her on until she was smiling successfully by the end of her reading.

Donald Wright, a minister at Olivet United Methodist Church, read his poetry with the pleading conviction of a devoted preacher.

His 16-year-old daughter, Treasure, read a heartbreaking poem of love loss and domestic violence. Afterward, she recited it again.

(Wright recited one of his poems after the event; so did his daughter. Anthony Hall recited a poem, too. )

Some of the poems were funny and engaging, while others featured more stark facets of life. The city, the CTA, politics, loneliness, God, baseball and Rick James were some of the many topics the writers touched on.

Every poem was received with enthusiastic applause and words of encouragement.

Most volunteered to read again as the meeting came to an end, some reciting from memory while others read their poems directly from newspapers that have published their work.

“It’s nice to know that there’s this creative place, an island where people can express creativity and be supported,” said Christine Telli, a librarian of nearly 24 years, who spent time in between readings encouraging everyone to sign-up. “Knowing there is this venue that’s open to all poets in the community is wonderful.”

For more information about the group, visit its Facebook page.


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