By Leslie D. Rose
You can’t make a statement if nobody is around to hear it. For Baton Rouge’s poets, the city is both the stage and the audience to make their ideas heard.
To show the community how much its support is valued, the BR Poetry Alliance will host its first ever Community Appreciation Night.
“Over the years, the Baton Rouge Poetry Alliance has taken several different roles within the community, and over the past year we have been visioning new ways to engage the community,” said Jim Dulin, special events coordinator for The Poetry Alliance.
Dulin said that after the police officer who killed Eric Garner was not indicted, the group decided to host a free open mic and community dialogue, where the numbers of attendees and positive feedback from the audience spoke of a need for such events in the community.
“We want to continue to be an outlet and a hub for community interaction and artistic expression,” he said. “The Community Appreciation Night is our thank you to the community that has supported us over the years as well as a welcome mat for new interested writers, poetry fans, and the everyday Baton Rougean.”
In addition to the usual open mic accompanied by an open bar of wine, beer and sodas, $7 buys a catered meal from Smoking Aces Barbecue and the chance to see national touring musician Kevin Sandbloom perform a feature set.
Sandbloom is a bit of a Baton Rouge regular—the California-based acoustic/loop station artist has featured in the Capital City at least once annually over the past three years. Now with the recent release of his album, Midnight 2 Midnight, he will be stopping by to share some new songs, and some old favorites, since he’s built an area fan base.
“Looking forward to performing for the good folks in Baton Rouge once again,” Sandbloom said. “I’m excited to break out some new material. I’ve always been well received here. If I could play here more often, I would.”
Sandbloom said that some of the songs on the new project are part of a one-man show he’s been performing called #shutitdown, primarily centered on social/political commentary. This is one of the reasons Sandbloom prefers to perform at poetry venues, as opposed to theatres or concert halls.
“My music, for whatever reason, really clicks with a poetry crowd,” he said. “Perhaps it’s the lyrical contact, maybe the genre, but I have just found over the years that this is and continues to be my niche.”
The community fun doesn’t stop with Sandbloom’s show. Dulin said that the following week, in addition to its regular open mic and slam routine, The Eclectic Truth will spotlight the Forward Arts All Stars – Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam Team. Dallas poet Princess McDowell will also feature.
“We make it our goal to bring in quality features at least once a month to expose the poets in our city to new talent,” Dulin said. “The last thing we want is for Baton Rouge artists to write in a void without learning from the talent surrounding us. In the same vein, the Poetry Alliance is creating a plan to offer writing workshops in conjunction with the weekly reading. We only exist because of the community of artists in Baton Rouge and we want to give back to the community by organizing opportunities for writers to develop their craft. We are all about building an ever stronger community of writers.”