Gratitude for a night to remember








Wednesday’s Known by Heart event at the Hamline library had a great turnout. Who know so many people cared about poetry and memory?

I loved hearing John Minczeski’s and Andrea Jenkins’ take on the question of the connections between poetry and memory; I loved learning from audience members that some of them get together as a group and memorize poems.

 Thanks to all the people who came to the event; to  John and Andrea for taking part in the Known by Heart experiment; to Zaraaawar Mistry of Dreamland Arts  for his good-humored  and amazing mentoring on ways to perform poems; to Jon Skaalen  of VSA Minnesota and Morgan Gracye Willow for ASL guidance;  to the Thursday night poets Ann McKnley, Lia Rivamonte, Barbara Davis, Sue Kunitz,  MaryAnn Franta Moenck,  and Alice Duggan; to the Studios of Key West; to Alayne Hopkins from the Friends,to John and the Hamline Midway librarian,  to Dona Schwartz and Karen Hering for project and other wisdom; and to Ray for being Ray.

 Thanks also to the Minnesota State Arts Board and The Friends of the St. Paul Public Libry and the Hamline Midway Library for helping make this event possible.

 Naomi Cohn  is a fiscal year 2011 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Why I won’t be presenting “What happens to a dream deferred”

The window of a church in the neighborhood where I grew up.

One of the poems I’ve memorized for the Known By Heart project is Langston Hughes’ Harlem, better known by its first line, What happens to a dream deferred? It’s a vivid, powerful poem; its strong images and cadences make it memorable. Easy to memorize and well worth sharing.

But Saturday night I had the opportunity to see Are You Now or Have You Ever Been….Carlyle Brown’s stunning and eloquent play about Langston Hughes appearing before Senator McCarthy’s Committee on Un-American Activities. Gavin Lawrence

offers an amazing performance as Langston Hughes. Brown’s script makes great use of poetry and history, wrapping them in a compelling dramatic package. And the topic is chillingly relevant to the present day.

The performances are equally outstanding. I couldn’t begin to bring the heft and nuance to Hughes’ lines that Gavin Lawrence does. So please go see this play.

And if you want to hear what stayed on my own list, please come see me and Andrea Jenkins and John Minczeski in the Known By Heart event  this Wednesday, May 9, at the Hamline Midway library. (Sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and made possible by  a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board)