Oh, Buoyant Group of Artist-Friends

Right now, I should be writing…something else. I am trying to finish up two book reviews today. I need to scale down many, many pages of notes. I should be planning the class I’m supposed to start teaching later this month. Should be reading the stack of books I’m trying to finish before the summer is over, or doing day job stuff.

But I keep thinking of last night’s poetry show organized by Bryon Cherry at The Jazz Estate in Milwaukee. He curates a monthly showcase and invited me to perform with Aria Pedraza (excellent first-time poetry performer!) and Derek Harriel, whose work I hope to write more about soon. It was stunning. Brit Nicole was also part of the lineup, but she had a car-related emergency and wasn’t able to make it. We missed her! Isaiah Joshua provided accompaniment for many of the poems on the piano.

What nourishing energy this circle of friends in Milwaukee provides. Sue Blaustein (who I recently interviewed on this blog) was there, along with poets SunShine Ramel, Franklin K.R. Cline, Lilo Allen, Anja Notanja, Bethany Price, (who I am forgetting? I know there are many…) and the list goes on and on.

Bryon Cherry reads a poem.

I like to spend time thinking a lot about how many cities and towns have extended groups of artist-friends like this. These connections can be what sustains many of us week-to-week. So many iterations of present and future collaboration exist in one room.

You can read up about the communities of artists that exist(ed) in NYC or San Francisco or Paris. I’m interested in talking more about the communities of artists that exist in Milwaukee or Des Moines or Winston-Salem, Jackson, San Antonio, Rochester. Or Racine or Viroqua, Steven’s Point, Kenosha, Baraboo.

I moved to Florida almost exactly a year ago, and in some ways, it has been lonely. It just…takes a while to become part of a new community. I have so many Miami friends who have been incredibly welcoming. I’m not saying I want to move back to Milwaukee, but it can’t be denied that it’s different to have years-long or decades-long history in a certain place with certain people.

Last weekend in Florida, I attended South Florida Poetry Journal’s quarterly reading + open mic, where I felt the same impulse to create space as Bryon’s show at The Jazz Gallery. I went to a performance called A Queer Goodbye, a feminist reading curated by my good friend Cathleen Chambless. Those were beautiful spaces.

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