STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON/For 21st Century Media
Poets, like most writers, spend hours alone, exploring ideas, creating images, finding the right words to express what they want to say. Sometimes, they get to share those words then through readings, like the Monday Poets series at the Philadelphia Library.
Local poets J.C. Todd and B.E. Kahn are the featured Monday Poets today, Dec. 1.
“Betti and J.C. are just the sort of poets we like to host. They are local and have strong local reputations in poetry circles, they have published their work in both books and respected journals, and they have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the cultural life of this area,” said library supervisor Kay Wisniewski.
The event runs “during the cold months,” the first Monday of each, from 6:30 p.m. until about 8 p.m. Performer/poet/teacher Lamont Dixon hosts the event, which includes a Q & A session after the reading, and, if time allows, an open mike for short pieces.
Todd has published three poetry books: “What Space This Body,” “Nightshade,” and “Entering Pisces.” Her poems have appeared in many journals, including “The Paris Review,” “Virginia Quarterly Review,” and more. She’s a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College and at Rosemont. She earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College.
Kahn has written three chapbooks: “Spring Apples Silver Birch,” “Landscapes of Light,” and “Night Spark: The Zoe Poems.” She has won grants and taught poetry to intergenerational, interfaith, and women’s groups. Her poems have appeared in local journals and “The Tupelo Press Online Poetry Project.”
Kahn, of Wynwood, is looking forward to reading several pieces that demonstrate who she is, she said. She has written poems about family, travel, politics, nature, dreams, and more.
“I write about lots of things,” she said, “so there are many topics to choose from.”
She likes reading her work aloud and being “on,” she said, like when she was a teacher. She also likes getting the audience’s reaction.
“I love hearing the sound that the audience makes after you read a poem that speaks to them,” she said. “You’ll hear a half-sigh that’s marvelous. It’s a real connection to your listeners.”
Kahn began seriously writing poetry about 25 years ago. She first picked up a pen when she was little, though, and liked writing stories and poems. With daily obligations and things that needed to be done, Kahn had to choose between painting and writing based on the time she had left. She thinks writing is more convenient.
“You can write when you’re taking a walk. When I’m driving home, at a red light, only at a red light, I can pull out the pen and jot down something that was in my head,” she said.
Writing is expression, but also can be healing. Kahn does workshops with people who aim to heal sexual trauma through words. She would like to offer similar workshops to college students who deal with those issues, and also veterans, who have other struggles.
Writing is not a struggle for Kahn. She said ideas and inspiration visit her often.
“The problem is there’s not enough time to get it all in,” she said.
She creates as much as she can then.
“Poetry means a freedom to voice my ideas and feelings in this deeply personal way,” she said.
She’s not sure where it all comes from, but that’s part of the fun, as is presenting her work to the world.
“I like the mystery of it. There’s mystery making in the writing and sometimes mystery solving,” she said. “To share all that is pretty neat.”
IF YOU GO
What: Monday Poets with J.C. Todd and B.E. Kahn
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1
Where: Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Library, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA
Admission: Free (no tickets required).
Info.: Call 215-567-4341 or visit www.freelibrary.org