Poet drops the 'Dime'

April 19, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd University professor Ethan Fischer arrived at The Mecklenburg Inn - or the Meck, as he likes to call it - on time for a poetry rehearsal Monday evening.

Wisps of salt-and-pepper gray peeked from the sides of his beige cap. A brown scarf draped from his neck. A brown corduroy blazer covered a blue sweater, which in turn covered his collared, cream shirt. His most recent book of poems, "Beached in the Hourglass" (The Bunny and The Crocodile Press, 2004), was tucked away in one of his many totes.

His eyes drank in the pub's scene - a few patrons chatting and laughing noisily at the bar - before settling on the entrance to the backroom of the Meck, where the rehearsal would take place.

A Sunday afternoon performance at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown was days away. Fischer is one of the featured poets at the event, which is named after Fischer's radio series, "Johnny Dime, Poet of Crime & His Motley Crew."


On Sunday, Fischer will perform his poems, spoken word and segments from the Johnny Dime series, which used to air on the university's radio station. He'll perform alongside guitarist John Bardi, who teaches philosophy at Penn State Mont Alto.

Actress and poet Sarah Kezman also will perform Sunday. Kezman, a Shepherd grad, has had her poems published in Antietam Review and Long Island Quarterly.

On Monday, Fischer and Bardi met at the Meck to practice for the Sunday show.

"No matter how often we rehearse, no performance is ever alike," said Bardi, who arrived to the rehearsal a little late.

Bardi came to the rehearsal with his guitar in hand.

"John was our resident musician for the radio series," Fischer said.

The Johnny Dime series began roughly 20 years ago, Fischer said. He and others would record the sessions live before an audience in a room on campus that held a little more than 100 people, Fischer said.

Now, they do live performances of the Johnny Dime series for special events such as the show at the museum.

Johnny Dime is a detective whose office is "above the Sheetz" and whose clients include "femme fatales" and the "forlorn" of Shepherdstown, Fischer explained. Listeners follow along as Dime humorously solves various mysteries, with the help of his mother and cat.

Sunday's show is the final performance in the museum's three-part "A Change of Pace: Poetry & Jazz" series, which pairs poetry with jazz and other forms of music. Organizer Hope Maxwell-Snyder, an author who lives in Shepherdstown, said the goal of the series is to, "in three sessions, bring the greatest range of spoken word and poetry to Hagerstown."

If you go ...

WHAT: "Johnny Dime, Poet of Crime & His Motley Crew"

WHEN: 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22. A reception will follow the event.

WHERE: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, Hagerstown.

COST: Free

MORE: For more information, call 301-739-5727.

You can see how Fischer's Monday rehearsal went at

Hear a snippet of the interview with Ethan Fischer at

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