It was just a Wednesday evening.
Ok, it wasn’t just a Wednesday evening; no evening at Barnes and Noble can be just an evening. Those books! Starbucks coffee, tea, and little pastries that come on little white plates while the cappuccino machine goes “Whoosh.” People playing chess. Others flipping through issues of People Magazine and US they have no intentions of buying.
That is just a Barnes and Noble evening. But this was different.
Normal evenings, Barnes and Noble or otherwise, don’t feature a group of poets sitting between Star Wars sticker books and Frog & Toad picture books. Chairs cramped, facing a very green stage resplendent with a scene straight from Winnie the Pooh. Children talking indistinctly; one kid climbing up on a stool, balancing precariously trying to reach a book that was way up.
The Lancaster Poetry Exchange meets monthly in the Lancaster Barnes and Noble children’s department to hear a featured poet, as well as share their own poetry during an open reading.
This particular month, on this particular evening, Joseph Wade read his poetry about friends, war, social injustice, and the justice system. He would lean forward at the podium, a stack of loose pages in his hand, glancing up occasionally as he read.
Joseph Wade is a lot of things: former Lebanon citizen, current student in Brooklyn, and war vet. His poetry is delivered with the hard punch that comes from having life experiences to share. Unrhymed, short lines, broken sentences, punctual ideas; these, to a large degree, are a perfect form to highlight the meaning behind his words.
The open reading becomes a turnstile of local poets. The new and accomplished alike share their work to applause and an occasional whispered “Wow” from the 20 (or so) person audience. It’s an excellent environment for the new poet–people appreciate the willingness to share. Whether the person reads from a scribbled sheet of paper, barely deciphering their own handwriting, or with the soft glow of an iPad screen reflecting in their glasses, attention is given to each poet.
Whether writing about the first taste of alcohol or seeing leg reflections in windows, one theme emerged during the open reading: storytelling. But more than that: storytelling by using personal experiences crafted in a way to let the audience see through the poet’s eyes. It is a relatable way of reminiscing on life. Sometimes these are stories with a point–a call to action or a reminder to remember. Or maybe the story is just that–a story to enjoy.
Either way, The Lancaster Poetry Exchange provides this outlet for writers. Even as a kid screams three isles over.