ARTSPEAKS showcase celebrates area poets


Poet Stan Richardson, shown rehearsing for a stage-read performance in March, organized and hosts the new poet showcase, ARTSPEAKS, on Sunday at the Thomas Center.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent/file
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

Poet Stanley Richardson has his own special way of preparing himself before going onstage. He meditates then takes a deep breath. And finds his voice.

Facts

ARTSPEAKS: A Celebration of Poetry

What: New quarterly showcase featuring area poets
When: 6-8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Thomas Center, 302 NE Sixth Ave.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Info: 792-2846

“(Sometimes) I may be speaking in the voice of a child, a woman, or someone who is an ancestral spirit,” Richardson said.

He describes this as “persona poetry,” which are poems written in a voice other than that of the author.

On Sunday, Richardson hosts the first of a new series of events called ARTSPEAKS: A Celebration of Poetry, at the Thomas Center.

Designed as a quarterly showcase for local and regional poets, ARTSPEAKS will spotlight 12 poets from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday. A meet and greet with the poets is planned afterward.

The new series is co-sponsored by the city of Gainesville Department of Cultural Affairs and Richworks, a company that promotes literary artists in Gainesville.

Richardson, who is 51 and has written poetry for more than 30 years, organized ARTSPEAKS to create a community platform where poets could artistically express themselves.

“I think poets love the company of other poets ... hearing poetry especially in the voice of the writer is special,” Richardson said. “Poetry is the most honest language...(Poets) bear witness to the truth.”

For Valerie Esker, who lives in the Citrus County town of Beverly Hills, poetry is invaluable in getting through life's challenges.

Her inspiration comes from nature, spiritual poets and familial situations, said Esker, who will perform Sunday. Her favorite poets include Pablo Neruda and Walt Whitman.

“For me it is a complete joy to create in that manner,” said Esker, who served on the board of the Florida State Poets Association. “Poetry says what usual prose cannot, and it says it in such a beautiful manner that you can't resist it.”

Esker is no stranger to the mic. The 2011 Senior Poets Laureate has won numerous state and national contests, and often travels in an RV to poetry slams in her home state of Ohio.

“It's just nice mingling with other poets,” Esker said. “So many people are negative about poetry...It's nice to be in a positive situation.”

Gainesville poet David Maas said he believes the future of poetry will involve more technology such as iPods and MP3s.

“It's (no longer) a matter of people finding books with a big collections of poems,” said Maas, who also plans to perform Sunday. “It's a more direct vehicle for the audience to get it electronically.”

Maas, 45, said he wants to draw people into art and expression, and convince them poetry is cool. “I have a mission to sell poetry to people who think they'll never write poetry,” Maas said.

“I just get up there and act like there is nothing so special about me, and I perform a piece of high-performance poetry.”

When Terrance King moved from London to Gainesville at age 12, he couldn't imagine that he'd become a master in “spoken flow.”

“Some say ‘spoken word' ... some call it ‘spoken poetry' (but) I call it ‘spoken flow,'” King said.

Poetry was a way for him to deal with the pressure with moving from England to America, he said. He could write down his feelings and not be offensive to anyone.

“It's unexpected for me sometimes. People judge me (and) think I look more like a fighter or say ‘I never expected that from you' based on my speech,” said King, 44. King, who heard about ARTSPEAKS from Richardson, said he enjoys seeing smiles on people's faces when he performs.

“When you are an artist there is no one that tells what you to do,” King said. “My pad is my shield. My pen is my sword. Either way I carry a weapon.”

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