Monday, March 7, 2016

out and about in the creative economy

Saturday was a treat! There's no other way to describe it. With so many artsy events to choose from, I chose to focus on spoken word and books -- words still matter, will always matter.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a FreeVerse! workshop led by Elmer Martinez, one of many talented young poets to come out of Lowell. Workshopping  poems with other poets yields new ways of looking at the work and the exercise that Elmer gave us really helped. We met in the studio at unchARTed, up above the new unchARTed gallery, performance space, and fantastic restaurant. The visual surroundings of being in a studio were inspiring for the poetry and for the improv exercises. Poetry, art, and pizza are plenty to boost one's energy level. Thank you to unchARTed for the pizza. Thank you to Elmer for coming back to Lowell from your freshman year in progress at Emerson to share poetry and insight with your homies.

The next stop on my itinerary was Mill No. 5 for the Pulp & Press bazaar and the Author Round-Up that was part of it. I somehow imagined that I'd also manage to fit in a quick stop at Western Avenue Studios and maybe some photography around town too, but as is emblazoned on many T-shirts "So many books, so little time!"  Pulp & Paper  is basically a  paper-themed market place full of vendors  selling art, prints, books, and even artistic little boxes and other objects made of paper.

On my way over to Mill No. 5, I started noticing afternoon light on red brick, one of my favorite photo subjects, so I got diverted off into taking a few pics. I caught up with my FreeVerse! folks just as they arrived at Mill No. 5 so we got to all ride the elevator up to the enchanted 4th floor together along with Andy Jacobson, our host for the Untitled Open Mic series. I tried to check out as many of the tables as possible on my way to a small corridor off of the main corridor to find the local small press book fair tables and the author performance space -- a smallish but decent sized room kind of hidden near Luna Theater. The first local author I ran into was Hyperlocal Man himself, Richard Howe. (Someday I am going to write a comic strip about the adventures of Hyperlocal Man and the Lowell Connectah -- two crime-fighting, problem-solving, history-preserving supeheroes about town -- if I ever learn to draw.) He informed me that Paul Marion (the Lowell Connectah) was in the performance space, so I headed on in.

In the performance space, Matt Miller was reading, nearing the end of his time slot. I was glad I caught some of his extraordinary poems. It is amazing how many writers there are in the greater Lowell area. Or maybe it's not so amazing, as the Merrimack Valley and the NH Seacoast have always been hotbeds of literary endeavor.  I was thrilled to hear Michael Casey, whom I haven't heard in nearly 20 years, do some of his most iconic poems. Paul Marion wowed the crowd as usual. Sarah Masse and Madison Brown repped FreeVerse! awesomely, and Masada Jones -- one of the three amazing founders of FreeVerse! --  was on point with her poems. I did not get to hear as much of Al Bouchard's new stuff as I would have liked, but did appreciate what I heard before I had to duck out of the performance space.

I hit the Boostrap Press/FreeVerse! table for a copy of Masada's book -- graciously signed of course -- and a copy of Princess Moon's beautiful new book. At the Loom Press table, I had a chance to chat with Paul Marion and ask him for more information on a Lowell/Mike Dukakis  story that I'd recently heard from a friend. Paul was able to correct/clarify/and amplify the story for me. There's always a Lowell connection, just ask Paul!

I stopped in at Iron Tree Furnishings to say hi to my cousin Leanne who was in the middle of installing some vintage-style light bulbs. Alas, our conversation resulted in just enough distraction to result in a shattered bulb. Fortunately, no humans or dogs were hurt.

Sir Guinness of Lowell, the canine ambassador of Mill No. 5, intercepted me with a need for some petting outside Serpentine Books as I made my way toward Vinyl Destination.  Catching up with Dave Perry is always great, even when I'm not searching for records. We chatted, I scanned the new arrivals bin, and decided I was wicked hungry and needed some dinner. I announced my intention to finally try 1981 Ramen, but alas when I got there the line was too long. I continued down the block to Bishop's Legacy and feasted on the fasoulia of my dreams.

There was lots more to do in Lowell, in Lawrence, and all over the valley, but sometimes one just has to go home and curl up with newly purchased poetry books.

For further reading on what a great day it was at Mill No. 5, Paul Marion's post, @ Book Mill, on Richard Howe's hyperlocal blog talks about the Author Round-Up organized by Sean Thibodeau of the Pollard Memorial Library and Richard Howe's  weekly Lowell Week in Review  also mentions his experience at the book fair and author round-up event among other significant news of the week. If that's not enough, here's a wonderful account of Saturday's events at Mill No. 5 on Patrick Cook's Wicked Good Blog:Milling About on a Saturday Afternoon.

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