Poetry allows us to examine the world, ourselves, the people around us in a uniquely empathetic and emotionally-resonant way. It takes a particular skill to cast a sideways spotlight on a subject – masking our insight in metaphor and coded language, setting it to a rhythm that only deepens the profundity instead of diluting it. With this significance in mind, National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in April of 1996.
National Poetry Month is also what sparked the establishment of the Ancient City Poets. In 2009, a round table of writers, authors, and poets was brought together by writer Glenda Bailey-Mershon with the intention of planning several events for Poetry Month. Chris Bodor was the Master of Ceremonies for one of two open mic events. He had come to St. Augustine from New York several years before. While in NYC, he brought poems to an open mic in his brother’s coffee shop and eventually became its host, so this event was nothing new. “After the success of those two events on San Marco Street, Glenda gave me permission to take the name Ancient City Poets and run with it,” says Chris. “A few months later, in August, I turned on a microphone at a coffee shop, and we have been gathering on the last Sunday of the month ever since.”
On the last Sunday of each month – year after year – the group has set out a sign-up sheet and set up a microphone to give a voice to St. Augustine’s poets. As far as they’re concerned, any person who reads a poem at the event is a member of ACP. Since that first open mic, they’ve had readers as young as eight and as old as eighty.
During Poetry Month, the Ancient City Poets will host a community open mic on Sunday, April 28. The sign up sheet will go up at 2:30pm, and the readings will start at 3pm. All are encouraged to share their own poems or poems of their favorite writers. They’re also looking forward to several special events later in the year – like a poetry reading during the Sing Out Loud Festival in September.
“National Poetry Month is a fantastic opportunity because it puts a spotlight on something that the Ancient City Poets are doing all year long,” says Chris. “Call it free speech or call it free entertainment, it is an opportunity for poets and poetry lovers to assemble and share their words in a loving and supporting atmosphere.”
Learn more about the Ancient City Poets and their events by visiting www.bodor.org. With the recent Coronavirus cancellations, please independently confirm the above date before attending. Photography by Robert Waldner.