Starkey Flythe

Eat Soft Shell Crabs, then come listen to poetry

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April is National Poetry month so this Saturday Otram Slabess will be staging our annual outdoor poetry reading at the Charles St. Gallery. I know, I know, there’s a lot going on in Beaufort this weekend. All the more reason to take a time-out at three in the afternoon and let the metered words of some wonderful writers soothe your hurried soul. Trust me, standing in line for an hour for an over-priced soft shell crab in Port Royal will make you crave a glass of wine, a chair, and the artistic shade of Lyals and Georgia’s gallery garden.

Before we open up the microphone, each Otram Slabess member (founders Warren Slesinger and Quitman Marshall, plus Steve Johnson, Jacquelyn Markham, Karen Peluso and me) will read a piece they’ve written, and one by a poet from the larger universe. I don’t know which I’m looking forward to more – my fellow writers are so accomplished and lyrical and entertaining that I joined the group just to hear their works in progress every month. I don’t even write poetry, but I love how these part-time teachers, publishers, parents and artists tangle with thoughts and words and even commas. They don’t make a living off of their poems (oh unjust world) but poetry is what grounds and inspires them. To listen to them read their own work is an invitation to see the world as they do. To hear them read their muses is an interior window and just as revealing.  

I’m going to be reading a poem by Starkey Flythe, an award-winning South Carolina poet who spoke at a meeting of the Poetry Society of SC in Beaufort this February which Warren and Quitman hosted and arranged. He’s a brilliant and funny octogenarian; he advised the poets in attendance to have their portraits taken while they are young and said that education is meant to bore children to death at great expense. I find his poems as charming as he is, yet for the workshop he had us read poems about defacing graves and wrestling angels. His point was that poetry is more than rhymes of love and odes to azaleas. He encourages writers to tackle not the grand but the intimate.

Which is why I love the annual Otram Slabess poetry reading at the Charles St. Galley. It’s intimate. In Lyal’s garden you are close enough to jasmine to get drunk on it, you sit near enough to your neighbors to see what poems make them smile or cry or both at the same time.

To get you in the mood for Saturday, I highly recommend subscribing to a free email/facebook/twitter offering by Knopf Poetry. Every day in April, and we still have a few, they’ll send you a wonderful poem by known or emerging star in the world of poetry. You can friend or follow them, or try the e:mail address that appears in my mailbox everyday:

knopfpoetry@information.randomhouse.com

See you Saturday!