Poetree by Cat Charissage, photo by Teri Petz (c) a.r.r. 2019

Hello Dear Friends,

One year ago on another hot day in July, the open mic poetry reading at the Owl Acoustic Lounge here in Lethbridge was opened by Teri Petz, organizer and host. She had been inspired to start an open mic night after 10 months of a Poetry Circle that I had facilitated in my home the previous year. After we stopped for a summer break, she felt the dearth of poetry in her life keenly, and I got a phone call one day, “What do you think of an open mic night?” And the rest is history (herstory!)

Over 100 different poets have read throughout the year, with 20 – 24 poets most evenings. Who knew there were this many people who wrote poetry in Lethbridge??? It’s been a full house for months now, and last Thursday was practically standing room only. It was a joyful celebration. Steve, the manager at the Owl, donated and served both a chocolate cake and a vanilla cake, bringing plateful after plateful of slices to each one of us. I have been so grateful to the openheartedness of all who have stood up there and read their poetry — many for the very first time in public.

So in honor of the anniversary, I put together a “Poetree”, painting of a tree with bare branches, whose leaves were left on all the tables with an invitation for people to write out what they love about poetry or about OWL Poetry. Then they taped their leaves to the tree, making a beautiful full tree. (The photo here is of the bare branches b/c I don’t yet have a photo of the fully leafed tree —- the double sided tape didn’t work as well as I had hoped it would, and I’m in the process of gluing those leaves down —- 2 hours today, with only about 1/2 done so far!)

I also wrote a poem dedicated to the OWL Poets, which I was able to read to them all:

Carry on, fellow poets!

I see you here on stage

voice quivering but soul shining.

I hear your heart’s words of

joy, or pain, memories or anger.

I know the nervousness of reading your poetry 

first time in public.

I know how bright that light is onstage,

this microphone scary with its loudness.

Wow — my voice, really?

Yes, really!  

Your voice, you, heart and soul visible

right here, now.

So filled with gratitude,

I bow to all the poets here.

I may never have met 

most of you if you hadn’t dared

to stand here naked and 

tell us what it’s like to be you:

People full of mystery and surprise,

Listening to you inspires me to 

see strangers with more curiosity and hope.

So, what’s it like for you?

Tell me what troubles you,

delights you, fills you with wonder.

From despair to random kindnesses,

from sex to spirituality,

I hear from you how many ways there are

to live a life, a good life.

And I’m grateful to you 

ordinary , beautiful people,

so extraordinary in soul shining out,

lanterns to those of us lost or frightened.

You belong here, as do I, 

and we’ve all made a space

inviting others to belong to this adventure called life,

this experiment in telling it like it is.

Carry on, fellow poets!

Let us carry on!

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Filled with gratitude, I wish you all a happy New Moon, this last day of July,

Cat