GHS Writer’s Society Presents – Poetry Café Night
The lights at night tell a story, and on a cold winter Wednesday night, the lights illuminating from the Graham High School cafeteria had quite a story to tell.
On a night and hour when all is often dark, the lights inside were shining brightly for a noteworthy cause. On January 22nd 2020 the GHS Writer’s Society hosted the first ever Poetry Café – a benefit event for a fellow classmate, Will Calfee, who is battling cancer. Admission was a $5 donation, but the overflowing money box said many gave much more. Local vendor Kwik Kafe donated drinks and refreshments, many others volunteered time and supplies, and one hundred percent of the proceeds went to the cause.
But the night was about so much more.
It was a night of love, friendship, caring, and empathy. It was night that brought a community together, to celebrate life, to help fight a battle, and to share. In a world so often bitterly divided, it is often art that brings us together. Beneath the glimmering warmth of light, a peaceful union of souls, collectively sharing from the heart, a passion that runs far below the surface of feeling. A passion with meaning.
The setting and scene, befitting such a grand event, was perfection. The audience sat anxiously at cafeteria tables, draped in white, and aligned in oval rows facing the podium where nervous students and faculty would share both classic and original poetry. Some brought props and others even entertained with musical accompaniment. The mood was light and festive, often serious and sometimes sad. The depth of feeling, beyond measure.
A few weeks prior to that special night, GHS English teacher, event organizer and my fellow GHS classmate, Debra Brewster, sent a message informing me of the Poetry Café. She said, “I know you’re busy, but the kids would love it if you could attend.” During the previous fall I had visited my alma mater, to share with these same students some highlights and lessons of my writing journey. Debra further stated, “Oh, and a few of the students will be reading selections from your poetry book.”
With that, I simply had to go. To say it was an honor, vastly understates the moment.
The student emcee, Ethan Stinson, moderated the event like a professional – adding humor, encouragement, and the appropriate tone of reflection with each selection. A few personal highlights came at separate moments during the evening, when students Joey Dales, Grace Aiello and Jonathan Du each read poems selected from my book Simply – A Collection of Poetry. Hearing my words read aloud on such a grand stage, was truly an honor. Chatting with the students afterwards about what the poems meant to them, was beyond words.
During the event I sat next to another former classmate, Terry Smith. We both beamed with pride when his daughter, Rebecca, stood at the podium and read her original poem – “Only Halftime.” In all, thirty-six poems were recited during the two-hour long event. Each piece was delivered with heartfelt passion, on a night filled to capacity with love and compassion.
Beyond the cafeteria walls, the school’s halls and foyer are lined with pictures, plaques, trophies and endless accolades celebrating the grand accomplishments of the GHS students. But I could not be prouder of my school, the students and staff, than I was on that special Wednesday night. Each student and faculty member delivered their selection of poetry with great feeling. Each one stood, proud and confident, and shared words that held special meaning. The audience sat attentively, and no doubt were inspired by the moment. A moment that helped inspire me to write a new poem, titled “The Lights at Night.”
(you can read it here)
The first ever GHS Writer’s Society Poetry Café was a grand success, and I applaud all involved. I’m certain that Will Calfee and family were deeply touched.
The event program stated – “Poetry is beauty, sadness, humor, anger, grace, sometimes a range of emotions, captured in a moment.” A perfect summary for a perfect night. Well done G-Men and Women!
The program also quoted Wallace Stevens – “The poet is the priest of the invisible.” The lights at night tell a story, and on this night, the invisible was seen and heard, illuminated by the love of art, and a gathering of friends.