Poetry on Cedar Street

Takoma Park Library

Poetry on Cedar Street

E. Ethelbert Miller Interviews Poet Joe Ross

Poetry on Cedar Street, a quarterly poetry series, will launch on Tuesday, December 6, 7-8 p.m. with poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller reading from his work.  Miller recently interviewed Joe Ross, poet and coordinator for Poetry on Cedar Street, for his blog, E-Notes:

Poet Ethelbert MillerPoet E. Ethelbert Miller

Monday, November 28, 2011
Poet Joe RossPoet Joe Ross

An Interview with Poet Joe Ross

Ross will be coordinating a new poetry series at the Takoma Park Library (416 Cedar St. N.W. in D.C.) starting December 6 at 7 p.m.  E-Notes wanted to ask him a few questions.

Q (Miller). Next month you'll be coordinating and hosting a new poetry series (Poetry on Cedar Street) at the Takoma Park Library. Why another series in the DC area?

(Ross) I have always loved my local library, and I wanted to do something that would be rooted in a local, neighborhood library. A poetry reading series is something I can do. I’m fortunate to be part of the vibrant literary community in Washington, D.C., and that enables me to gather friends who are poets to read their work.

Wherever I’ve lived, the local library has been a place for community: learning and connecting. The Pomona Public Library offered me those gifts as a kid in California and I thought those gifts could be useful here. The Takoma D.C. library sits right in the middle of a neighborhood, so it seems like a good place to bring poetry. Many people won’t get to Busboys & Poets or to the universities or coffee houses, but they might come to their local library, and they might bring their children. It just seems like a good way to get more poetry to more people.
Q. How difficult is it to coordinate a series?  How do you find the poets?

Poetry on Cedar Street will only be a seasonal reading series, at the moment. That means only four readings a year. So I don’t think that will be difficult to coordinate. The librarians at the Takoma D.C. Library have been helpful and gracious, so I don’t foresee problems. For the moment, the poets will be people I know. I’d like to build up a bit of a following for the series, get a core, regular audience.

As for finding the poets, initially at least, they will be people I know, like you. There are many fine poets in this area, and some of them don’t do lots of readings. So I’ll tap into folks I know first, then we’ll see.

Q. What type of support will the public library be providing you with?  Who do you see as your audience?

The library only provides the space, friendliness and some publicity help. They will publicize the series on their various listservs. The space they offer is their main contribution. The Takoma D.C. Library has a beautiful fireplace in its back wall, and it’s a terrific setting for a poetry reading. We’ll gather chairs back in that portion of the library, and the poet will read from there.

I’d love to see people who live near the library come to the readings. I know poetry is not everyone’s interest, but I hope the local neighbors who are interested in the library will come out for the poetry. I also think the audience will be members of the D.C. poetry community and those who love poetry from around the city. It’s a way to bring people from other parts of the region to the Takoma D.C. neighborhood. The library is just a quick two-block walk from the Takoma Metro Station, so it’s very accessible from other parts of the area.

Q. Do you have a criteria as to the type of poets you will be inviting?   Will you be presenting any spoken word artists?

I would like to invite a diverse group of poets, especially in terms of age. But this will take shape slowly. I think it would be good to occasionally present spoken word artists as they are certainly part of the poetry landscape. Right now, I’m still finalizing the second poet! But my hope is to have a group of poets each year who write and look like poetry in America.

Q. Will you be helping the Takoma Park Library develop its poetry section?

That’s a terrific idea, and I will certainly talk with the librarian, Rachel Meit, about this. Because this is a branch library, it’s part of the larger D.C. Public Library system, so they share poetry books with all the other branches. I have requested specific poetry books for myself, and they show up at Takoma within just a few days. But as to their specific collection, I’d like to work with Rachel on that. I think it would be good to beef up the library’s collection of books by poets who are reading as soon as they are scheduled. I’m sure the library staff would be open to that.

Joe Ross' new book of poems, Meeting Bone Man, will be published in March/April 2012. Watch for more information about it on his website.
--by Ethelbert Miller