Charlotte Lit and Pedestal Magazine Partner on New Poetry Reading Series

Poetry readings connect us to the oral roots of expressive language, a lineage as old as the human story itself. I imagine that as soon as humans developed the capacity for utterance, they began to use it – rhythmically, musically, eventually reflectively and aesthetically – to voice or attempt to voice the essential nature of being: what it meant, in any given moment, to be alive.

As editor of Pedestal Magazine, I’m excited to launch the Pedestal Magazine Reading Series and to partner with Charlotte Lit. The mission of Charlotte Lit (“to celebrate the literary arts by educating and engaging writers and readers through classes, conversations, and community”) is ideally aligned with Pedestals mission (“to support established and burgeoning writers … to promote artistic diversity and celebrate the voice of the individual”). For more than four years, Charlotte Lit has hosted and sponsored energized readings, workshops, and discussions. In addition, their facility on Central Avenue is a stimulating hub, a locale that naturally fosters enthusiasm, engagement, and curiosity. I’ve always wanted Pedestal Magazine to be a hub of sorts as well, one primarily engaged in the process of publishing, but one also complementarily involved with other related ventures, including workshops, mentoring/outreach opportunities, and a reading series.

Our first gathering will be held at Charlotte Lit on Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30 p.m., and feature current NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and Heart of Pamlico Poet Laureate for eastern NC Malaika King Albrecht. Throughout her work, Jaki offers relatable narratives and potent imagery, offering wise insights into human nature and historical patterns. Malaika’s work merges confessional tones with surrealistic imagery, also commenting on the culture at large. Both poets adeptly integrate the emotional and the intellectual, forging a unity of music and meaning. I encourage anyone who is interested in current poetry to familiarize themselves with the work of these vital poets. (Also, Jaki will be teaching a master class at Charlotte Lit on Thursday, October 17, The Poet Witnesses: The Poet as Documentarian, Historian, and Agitator.

Life these days feels precarious, replete with injustices, displacements, and environmental crises, including the extinction or impending extinction of numerous species and the degradation of natural resources in many parts of the world. Furthermore we seem to be witnessing a deterioration of ethical standards and a devaluation of communication skills. It’s easy, given these complex and pressing problems, to question whether poetry has a place in a world such as ours. How can we be concerned with the poetic process during a time that seems so urgently pivotal?

I’d suggest that we need eloquent poetry more than ever. We can be moved by the honesty inherent to skillfully rendered poems. We can be elevated by that particular blend of the personal and universal that well-crafted verse can strike. We can be clear that the discipline, vision, and expansiveness required to bring the creative impulse to fruition is indeed highly relevant; the very practice, perhaps, that is egregiously missing or at least depreciated in our current world. We need to be and remain inspired, to celebrate our perennial inquiry into what it means to feel, think, live, and face the inevitability of death. Please join us on October 16 for what will be, I’m certain, an evening to remember.

John Amen is the author of several collections of poetry, including “strange theater” (New York Quarterly Books, 2015), a finalist for the 2016 Brockman-Campbell Award. He is co-author, with Daniel Y. Harris, of “The New Arcana.” His latest collection, “Illusion of an Overwhelm,” work from which was chosen as a finalist for the Dana Award, was released by New York Quarterly Books in 2017. His poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays have appeared in journals nationally and internationally, and his poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Korean, and Hebrew. He is a Staff Reviewer for the longstanding music publication No Depression.

“Just What I Needed” – Remembering Ric Ocasek

I discovered music when I was 16.

Mike Lochner came into the boys locker room at Bishop Gibbons High School before cross country practice, bearing a giant silver boom box. He set it down on a bench, and reached for the Play button. Then he stopped.

“You have to hear this,” he said.

The button clicked, and a crisp synth beat came out. There were about a dozen of us, and we stood silent, waiting to understand why we had to hear this.

let the good times roll / let them knock you around
let the good times roll / let them make you a clown
let them leave you up in the air / let them brush your rock and roll hair
let the good times roll / let the good times roll / let the good…times…roll…

And then we got it. We’d never heard anything like it. It was the first time I heard something and thought: I have to own this. “The Cars” debut was my first album. Within a year I also owned Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” The Cars’ follow-up record, “Candy-O,” and a few more.

The man responsible, Ric Okasek, died last week.

If you’re old enough to remember 1978 and were listening to music when “The Cars” hit the streets, you might have felt something like what I did. “The Cars” changed the way I listened to music. Hook, melody, lyric – I knew that before but didn’t quite understand it. In that album it gelled. Joy, sorrow, I’m going to live forever, I might die tonight. I wrote their lyrics on my school desk. I can’t really sing, but I had to sing these. And a few years later, in 1984, I heard the song “Drive” (from the great album “Heartbeat City”) and realized that I finally understood heartbreak.

Should you decide to take a trip back to The Cars, make a detour for some of Ocasek’s best work, his solo records. Start with “Beatitude,” and give it more than one listen.

Commemorate 9/11 at Wednesdays@Lit Staged Reading

America Bound CoverThe events of September 11, 2001 changed our nation––and the world––forever. This year, in commemoration of the day, Charlotte Lit will host the first-ever dramatic reading of David Radavich’s “America Bound: An Epic for Our Time,” a poetry collection that explores the physical and emotional impacts of our nation’s history since World War II.

Radavich’s book is set in the eponymous town of Troy, USA, and features 24 monologues by a diverse group of everyday Americans who try to build meaningful lives in the midst of a world that seems constantly at war. Over the course of three generations, these Troy citizens get along, sometimes by changing and sometimes by staying the same, as the nation undergoes one dramatic transformation after another, from the post-World War II boom through the Iraq War and beyond. Multiple voices offer intimate, sometimes searing perspectives on American culture over the past sixty years.

– – – – –

David Radavich is a socially committed author and scholar. His latest narrative collection is “America Abroad: An Epic of Discovery” (2019), companion volume to “America Bound: An Epic for Our Time” (2007). Other recent poetry collections are Middle-East Mezze (2011) and The Countries We Live In (2014). His plays have been performed across the U.S., including six off-Off-Broadway, and in Europe.  He has served as president of the Thomas Wolfe Society, Charlotte Writers’ Club, and North Carolina Poetry Society and currently oversees the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

This performance is part of our monthly Wednesdays@Lit series. Admission is free and open to the public. Light refreshments available.

6:30 pm, Wednesday, September 11
Charlotte Lit
Midwood International & Cultural Center
1817 Central Avenue, Studio Two (Room 208)