I love unusual venues for poetry readings. A friend of mine, Sondra Gash, had a beautiful house tucked away on a back road in Lebanon, NJ. During the years that she lived there, Sondra hosted a few poetry salons each year. She did this to support her poet pals and to support CavanKerry Press, the press that published her collection, Silk Elegy. One side of the house was all windows overlooking a babbling brook and lots of trees and vegetation. It was a perfect spot for poetry. Sondra invited poets and other kinds of artists for an afternoon of poetry and conversation. The salons were wonderful. Recently, though, Sondra and her husband made the difficult decision that it was time to sell the house and move to a retirement community.
So Sondra and Ira moved to Winchester Gardens in Maplewood, NJ. One of the enticements to move there was that the Social Director suggested that she could continue her salons there. After a period of getting used to her new digs, Sondra put together the first reading. She invited me and five other poets to gather on Monday, May 19 for an evening reading. I was stunned by the beauty of this senior residential community. The grounds were beautiful with tons of flowers and the buildings were big old stone structures.
Above is the Great Hall where the reading was held. The furniture was rearranged so that the audience could sit in rows. We had approximately fifty residents turn out for the reading. They were engaged and enthusiastic.
With the assistance of the Social Director, Sondra prepared a program brochure. Inside was a photo of each poet and a bio.
This is just before the reading got underway. Left to right are Gail Gerwin, Ed Ryterband, Sondra Gash, Howard Levy, Teresa Carson, and Joan Cusack Handler. I'm standing at the far right. As I was sitting waiting for the audience to arrive, I saw a familiar-looking woman walk in. Much to my surprise that was Rose Spear, a woman I used to teach with at Millburn High School. She was a German teacher; I was an English teacher. I went over and we got reacquainted. It was an unexpected pleasure to meet up with a former colleague. Then the reading got underway, each of us reading for approximately ten minutes. What a pleasure to read in such an exquisite room.
Me reading three poems. Following the last poet, Sondra led a Q&A which was very interesting. I had the impression that some of the seniors would like to try to write some poems of their own. Then cookies were passed around and we engaged in some conversation with those who chose to come up and chat with us.
I'm not ready to move in, but I would definitely like to go back for another poetry reading or to lead a workshop.