Going out: Poets plan treats to hear and taste

By Josette Keelor

There’s plenty to do out of doors this weekend, with Harrisonburg’s second annual Blue Ridge Music and BBQ Festival at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds all weekend, Shenandoah National Park offering free admission Sunday and Sunflower Cottage holding its first-ever Hops Harvest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at 150 Ridgemont Road, Middletown.

But if you’d rather be a bookworm, you’re in for a treat.

Saturday at The Shenandoah Arts Council in Winchester, E. Ethelbert Miller and Holly Karapetkova will read for Taste of Poetry, free poetry readings with homemade peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert.

The series started four years ago, and twice a year “The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review” brings writers like Virginia poet laureate Kelly Cherry to Winchester.

Featured in a recent issue of “Sow’s Ear, Karapetkova of Arlington plans to read from her book “Words We Might One Day Say.”

“I was really, really grateful for that experience,” she said in a phone interview this week.

The poems in her book were composed over about 10 years, and many are about the birth of her son, “and sort of coming to terms with being a mother.”

In her poem “Love and the National Defense,” she compared the concept of love to a dirty bomb:

“People would breath it, feed/
on it unknowingly and slowly love/
would infiltrate their lungs, make their fingers burn.
In a week, you’d see them start to pair up, leave/
The office early for lunch and not return…”

She remembered a colleague telling her that poetry should tell truth “with a capital T,” but she disagreed.

“All art is subjective. It’s not a mathematical formula that you put up and get one answer,” she said. Her poem on love came from an exercise she did shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when she had to compare two opposing ideas.

“I kind of wanted to envision a better world for us,” she said.

Miller, who wrote a blurb for Karapetkova’s book, said he’s excited to be reading with her because they’ve known each other a long time.

A literary activist in Washington, founder and co-chair of the D.C. Humanities Council and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University since 1974, he plans to read from “Fathering Words,” inspired by memories of his father.

The ideas that resonate with him in his poetry come from love and violence, and he said art brings people together so he never shies away from its truth.

In his poem “Divine Love” he writes:

“I wish I had loved you many years ago./
I would have loved you like Ellington loved jazz and Bearden loved scissors./
I would have loved you like Langston loved Harlem and the blues loved Muddy Waters.”

“I’m just happy to share my work with other people,” he said the other day, “and I hope that they have a great evening.”

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com