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  • TRUE STORIES: The magic of the spoken word

  • Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination. — Ludwig Wittgenstein

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  • Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination. — Ludwig Wittgenstein
    There’s something about hearing a well-crafted poem spoken aloud that can make my being sing.
    Not only aloud but spoken in person, in the same room, in the flesh.
    Not that it has to be a solitary reading, fourteen of us passed around “Song of Myself” and read aloud from it at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Bash held at Pittsburg Public Library on June 3. It made the room vibrate.
    On Wednesday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m., poetry will again be spoken aloud at PPL as the library and the Little Balkans Press welcome poets George Wallace and Geraldine Green to southeast Kansas.
    Wallace, a New Yorker who does dozens of readings every year, is an extensive traveler both here and abroad. He’s in Okema, Oklahoma reading at the Woody Guthrie Festival as I write this.
    Geraldine Green hails from England where she runs creative writing workshops at Lancaster University. She has read widely in the UK, also in Italy and the US and worked on collaborative projects with visual and digital artists.
    Both Wallace and Green have published extensively.
    I’ve never heard them read in person but Wallace’s work has been praised for its “Whitmanian breadth, its fresco-like freshness, and its merging of bop prosody with surreal commentary.” He has over a decade of journalistic and curatorial experience examining and interpreting Jack Kerouac’s experiences in Northport, LI and in 2007, he was named a “Next Generation Beat” by the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival committee.
    Of Green’s collection “Passio,” reviewer Graham Mort wrote, “a high-wire act where risk, desire and accomplishment create poems of precarious and touching beauty. There is a mythic quality to much of the work here; each poem a mantra of what is possible if we're prepared to become — and remain — astonished by our lives.”
    Humm … both sound like they’re able to strike a note or two on the keyboard of imagination.
    To top it off, Wallace is currently writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace on Long Island, New York. Any friend of Walt Whitman is a friend of mine.
    I’ll be joining Wallace and Green at the podium — reading some of my own poems as well as a couple from latest issue of The Little Balkans Review.
    The current issue’s cover story features Chris Blancho’s visit with Miami, Oklahoma artist Charles Banks Wilson, along with accompanying sketches by the artist. The largest LBR ever produced at 170 pages, it’s a gem — with poetry, profiles, short stories, photographs, drawings, and historical essays by local and national writers. Copies can be purchased at the reading July 18, as well as at Hastings and Paradise Mall in Pittsburg starting tomorrow.
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    Getting back to poetry, it was Whitman who produced what I believe to be the best description of a poet’s art: “If he breathes into any thing that was before thought small it dilates with the grandeur of the universe.”
    The trick is not only in the dilating, I’ve found, but when to stop dilating — or, more times than not, what go back and edit out. Like writer and priest Ronald Knox said of a good sermon, "It should be like a woman's skirt: short enough to arouse interest but long enough to cover the essentials."
    To be sure, writing poetry is a solitary endeavor, but when spoken aloud, it has the ability — in the timbre, the pitch, the rise and fall of volume, and the stops and starts of the speaker’s unique voice — to create a magical connection between poet and audience with its rhythmic accounts of shared humanity.
    George Wallace, Geraldine Green and meself will be speaking poetry aloud at the library this Wednesday evening. Come see for yourself.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net
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