By Lynne McEniry
I’ve been writing poems for most of my life, but it took me until I was in my 40s, after a long and steady series of significant losses of varying kinds, to gather up the courage to take myself seriously and enroll in an MFA program in poetry. Just as my mentors and peers helped me to own calling myself poet, it was time to graduate and spring into the art world to seek out readings and publications. Rejections on both counts far outweigh acceptances for many of us, so the next leap was to create a trusting, supportive, community of poets who would be in it together. For about seven years now, we’ve been heading out together and on our own seeking publications, platforms…all sorts of places to share our work, to meet new writers, and to find motivation and inspiration to feed our creativity.
A couple of people from my grad school community found ARTS By The People’s monthly reading series in Madison, NJ: The Platform. They told two friends, and so on until I found myself there a couple of years ago and strolled up to the stage to share a couple of poems from my soon-to-be-published collection. I felt right then that my poetry community was about to expand. That night, I was invited back to be a featured reader, and the next year, I was invited to be one of the four Platform hosts…an opportunity I plunged right into.
Since community is central to my poetry, to the reason I create poems, to the arts and artists in general, I felt at home in this inviting, encouraging space where people of diverse ages and genders, class and cultural and life experiences come together to witness beauty and mystery and curiosity and the quest for understanding and connection.
At The Platform, I was honored to get to know Paul Rabinowitz, the ABTP Executive Director who works tirelessly and generously to grow artistic communities. Each month we’d talk about writers and writing and ways that we both worked at creating collaborative experiences for writers with visual artists, dancers, choreographers, and musicians. When Paul talked with me a few months ago about working with him on a new project, Jump The Turnstile, I….well…I jumped at the chance!
Over the last six weeks or so, 10 poets (half of them students) came together to record their pieces. These recordings were sent to abstract graphic artists, and to choreographers and dancers at two different higher education institutions. By the end of the year, our collaborative pieces will be complete, and we are working on the details of three live performances to happen soon after the new year.
Keep your eyes and ears open for Jump The Turnstile and all the other innovative collaborations happening with ARTS By The People. Get involved by coming to events and supporting the community created here. Artists, as Van Halen sings, we roll with the punches to get to what’s real. We do this in our lives, in our art, and in our shared endeavors. We want to grow in community and in our art, we’ve got to go ahead and jump. I’m sure glad I did.