Art Space: Poetry is alive and well in Danville and environs
San Ramon resident Bob Eastwood is a poet and a painter. In the former role, he leads The Poets' Society, a group of local bards who meet regularly in Danville/Alamo/San Ramon to share verse, vintages and volubility. "My role is workshop leader, scheduling meetings, and communication," says Eastwood.
Originally the group was the Poets of the Danville Area Cultural Alliance (DACA). As Eastwood explains, "The group emerged in the '90s, when poets of DACA decided to form a subgroup of the larger Alliance. There was a poet-representative on the board of directors of the DACA volunteer organization."
The now defunct DACA began in the early '80s, and its goal, as Eastwood recalls, was to show and encourage original art in the Danville area. The group opened a gallery on Front Street (above the Village Theatre), and a nominally compensated director of the gallery was appointed. Throughout each year, DACA ran periodic contests and various art shows. It also sold art and offered classes. Poetry began appearing in the gallery, along with pictures, sculpture and art-crafts.
DACA, Eastwood continues, was self-sustaining, with annual dues from the membership. "The Town of Danville provided the gallery at a nominal charge," he notes. But, to paraphrase Don McLean, 2005 was the year the muse died- the gallery space was no longer available. "Efforts to sustain DACA at other venues failed," Eastwood laments, "but the Poets' Society continued to meet at various locations, including members' homes."
Today, the Poets' Society has 10 to 12 active members, with 10 or so more participating on an occasional basis. Eastwood says that about 80 percent of the active members are published poets. At least five members have been poets laureate of surrounding towns, and three such appointed poets are currently participating.
One member, Connie Post (former poet laureate of Livermore), hosts readings at the Valona Deli in Crockett the second Sunday of every month, which feature a reading by a single poet, followed by an open mic for those who want to read their original work. Eastwood has been a featured poet in the past.
He says that Post has "a slate of widely known and well-regarded poets scheduled to give readings at the venue. The Valona has a fine reputation in Bay Area poetry circles for its readings." Ruth Blakeney, the current poet laureate of Crockett, started the deli readings about six years ago.
What is poetry? Not surprisingly, Eastwood has some thoughts on that subject. "To say that poetry is simply the best words in the best order, or that it is in essence emotion recollected in tranquility, or that poetry is at bottom a criticism of life is to relegate the amplitude and depth of poetry to an ad-man's catch phrase and to gloss over its potential effect upon our consciousness through glib reduction.
"I would rather describe how poetry can and should affect you- like Emily Dickinson's shiver when it takes the top of her head off or Tony Hoagland's belief that a good poem threatens us, crossing over some line in the poetic contract, which sets off alarms reminding us that reading and listening are not safe but that poetry is about being woken up, taken somewhere unexpected and dangerous."
The Poets' Society meets the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. The format of the meetings includes the reading of members' original poetry for feedback and appreciation, as well as general fellowship. Prospective members can contact Eastwood via e-mail at email@example.com.
--John A. Barry is a writer and aspiring artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
They're situated somewhere near the sacrum,
but capable of migration to lodge behind the eyes
& knuckle intriguing warps like retinal puckers,
or nest in the groin for a limp, apathetic doze.
Not to be confused with the Crazies, those nervy
angulars that lose decorum in fits of tingles,
like Pentecostals babbling the latest news
from their autonomic networks. Nor infamous
amplitudes of Ones-to-Pick, which cause Cheney-
upper-lips, tensed in hostile snarl - rather,
these make careers of glorious disinterest,
with scratches, grunts & other forms of lassitude.
There's something saintly about disinterest--
a quality that won't burn witches, decapitate
at an Imam's dictate, that with a smile, poo-poos
desire, finds no ethic in Protestant zeal or obedience
to Catholic Bulls. The bone-deep-beatitude engristled
if one probes at all in scriptural skeletons.