Content, delivery varies widely at Hagerstown poetry reading


HAGERSTOWN -- There was regret and resolve; faith and bafflement; derision and sanction.

Ten area poets presented a gamut of themes and styles Saturday at a poetry reading at Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery in Hagerstown.

Several poets addressed humanitarian issues. Christo Johnson, 31, of Bowie, Md., earnestly spoke of mentoring and healing. "My motivation is to inspire," he said.

Miranda Brown of Hagerstown read a similarly themed poem "Flight," which was injected with a grounded and playful humor. Art Page, 68, of Martinsburg, W.Va., spoke ardently about the unification of humanity, ending his segment with this thought.


"If you can't change the people around you, change the people around you," he said.

Meanwhile, Tony John's pieces focused on individual redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ, while Pepper Ballard said her introspective work was inspired by Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath.

Tom Dulan's portfolio was a study in multiplicity. He spoke of being awakened by the scent of a woman's perfume, contemplated King David's vulnerability to the human condition, then plunged into the droll "A Chipmunk in My Cat's Mouth."

While the content of the poems was varied, delivery was even more so. Some of the poets spoke like soulful preachers, while others like Paul Grant giggled at their very words as they spoke.

Ethan Fischer, a teacher at Shepherd University, provided a thoughtful introduction to one of his poems, stating that it was a piece about a parent and son trying and failing to communicate. After mulling that idea for a moment, he lightheartedly considered recanting it.

"I think," he added.

Ed Zahniser offered a delightfully wry presentation of poems, including "You Look Stunning in Umpire Gear," "The End of an Error" and "Why God Invented Skin."

Once as the audience laughed heartily, he quipped, "That was a serious one."

Bob Linde of Harpers Ferry. W.Va., sat in the back of the audience of roughly 40 people sketching the poets as they read. Linde said he had never been to a reading at the gallery.

"This is great. The light is good. It's always conducive to concentration on poetry to be surrounded by art as well," Linde said.

Antonios Kritikles, 27, of Spring Mills, W.Va., said he went to the reading because he was "curious about that side of my brain."

"It's about time I indulge myself into something less concrete," he said.

Following the reading, Kritikles said, "I feel less strange. In other words, my voice will be stronger."

Lynda and Grover Evans of Hagerstown, said they had always wanted to attend a poetry reading but never did until yesterday. Lynda said she was impressed by people's willingness to consider conflicting perspectives in the safety of an artistic setting.

"There were a lot of different ideas. It wasn't all the same old poems. Like I enjoyed the guy with all of the religious ideas, but some people may not. But because of the art, they did," Evans said. "I will come again."

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