2013-02-06 / Front Page

Poetry has longevity in Woodbridge

Long-running monthly event welcomes poets to Barron Arts Center
Staff Writer

Adele Kenny Adele Kenny WOODBRIDGE — From “The Epic of Gilgamesh” around 2500 B.C. to the epic hip-hop battles between artists like Nas and Jay-Z, poetry — in all its manifestations — continues to thrive as an art form.

Proof of that exists each month at the Barron Arts Center’s Poets Wednesday, where poets and others have been gathering since 1978 to share work and bask in the light of varied verses.

“We try to have something for everyone,” said Deborah LaVeglia, a Cranford resident who has been running the event for the past four years.

Founded by poet Edie Eustace, who later teamed up with fellow wordsmith Joe Weil to host the event, Poets Wednesday has provided the literary community with poetry on the second Wednesday of every month.

For a number of years, LaVeglia recalled, Eustace and Weil, and later, LaVeglia herself, would chip in to pay an honorarium to the featured readers.

“We never minded doing it, because we thought that poets should be paid for their work,” she said.

Perhaps this respect for poets is what has kept so many coming back for 35 years and counting. According to LaVeglia, Weil — an accomplished poet who currently teaches undergraduate and graduate creative writing classes at Binghamton University — said it best.

“He said that we have a sort of weddingreception poetry reading, where everything goes and everyone is welcome,” she said.

To illustrate this, LaVeglia explained that the event features poetry that could be considered highbrow, lowbrow, avant-garde or hiphop, amid an ever-changing array of writers.

“Overall, we have a steady, good amount of people coming,” she said, adding, “We could always use more people, and I love hearing new voices.”

At least two such voices will ring out at the event’s Feb. 13 gathering — Adele Kenny and Marilyn Mohr.

“They’re both wonderful — two very, very good and experienced poets,” LaVeglia said.

Kenny hosts the Carriage House Poetry Series, now in its 15th year, in Fanwood.

“My primary goal was to bring poetry to the community, to poets and nonpoets alike, by presenting a wide range of styles and voices,” she said.

Her efforts, like those of the individuals involved in Poets Wednesday, have paid off with a loyal following.

“We never change the date, [and] we never cancel unless the weather is horrendous,” LaVeglia said of the Woodbridge event.

A poets’ workshop kicks off each month’s event — led by LaVeglia or one of that month’s featured poets — with writers using prompts to craft first drafts of poems that are later shared with the group.

“It’s always a good thing,” she said of the workshop, which she added to Poets Wednesday three years ago.

The workshop helps to jog inspiration in a group setting, which can be a great help for those with writer’s block, as well as for those who simply want to try a new process for writing.

“Inspiration for me is primarily experiential and from the natural world,” Kenny said of her poetry-writing process.

A poet from a young age, Kenny’s love of the art form took hold during her fourth summer, when she was diagnosed with “polio fever,” she said.

“While other children played outdoors, my parents sat at my bedside and steadied my world with stories and poems,” she said. “I loved the poems most. An only child, inclined to the solitary, I wanted to read and write on my own. My mother had no training as a teacher but, somehow, she taught me that summer using poems and the Bible. It was the beginning of a lifelong love of poetry.”

Kenny’s poetry has garnered fellowships and awards over the years, and she is the author of 23 books of poetry and nonfiction.

Mohr has also made a name for herself as a poet, having penned two volumes of poems, along with reading her work on television and the radio, among other recognitions.

LaVeglia pointed out that the Barron Arts Center, led by Director Cynthia Knight, helps make Poets Wednesday possible not only by supplying the space for the event, but also by providing the honoraria for poets, along with cookies and refreshments from Wegmans each month.

“They are absolutely wonderful,” she said.

Also contributing to the event’s success is how it is kept fresh, with a variety of groups and formats. For example, LaVeglia said, Poets Wednesday has dedicated events to a given theme, such as Latino poetry, and will soon play host to a poetry slam with poets from Woodbridge High School.

But, in whatever form it takes, what keeps people coming back to Poets Wednesday month after month, year after year, is the poetry.

“Poetry enhances our lives and offers opportunities for both personal and creative expression; it’s a medium that dignifies experience, thought and language,” Kenny said. “Most importantly, poetry tells us that we’re not alone.”

Poets Wednesday takes place every second Wednesday of the month at the Barron Arts Center, 582 Rahway Ave., Woodbridge. The workshop begins at 7 p.m.; readings start at 8 p.m. For more information, go to http://wednesdaypoet.typepad.com.

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