Poetry tour comes to Waynesburg

  • By C.R. Nelson
    For Observer-Reporter
July 17, 2013
Line Assembly, a group of emerging poets will read their work at Artbeat Gallery Friday. From left, Ben Pelhan, Sarah Smith, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Adam Atkinson, Anne Marie Rooney and Zach Harris.

WAYNESBURG – Line Assembly is a collective of six emerging poets touring small towns this summer to read their poems, conduct workshops and encourage others to keep grassroots poetry alive.

On Friday, they will give a free performance of their art at the Artbeat Gallery, 52 E. High Street, Waynesburg, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Homegrown poets are encouraged to meet, greet and network with them.

For poet Sarah Smith, a 2001 West Greene High School graduate, it will also be a chance to say hello to old friends, hug the teacher who saw her potential in high school and be back home for a day or two before getting on the road again to the next town on the tour. The tour is the groups’ collective way of saying thank you.

“While we’ve come from different places, we share indebtedness to community experiences that brought us poetry in early childhood and adolescence through branch libraries, writing groups and independent bookstores that hosted readings and fostered grassroots literary activity,” Smith said. “These places and programs are close to our hearts.”

Smith met her fellow poets when they were creative writing undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University. Their love of poetry and the literary arts became the ties that would bind and bring them back together as Line Assembly. After graduation, they went their separate ways, earning masters degrees, publishing books, winning awards and teaching writing to others, from grade schools to liberal arts colleges to senior centers. But friendship, and a love of reaching out with words, brought them together again. During the free workshops this summer, the members are donating books of contemporary poetry, along with their professional expertise. Their collective artistic experience has become an online resource magazine at www.lineassembly.com that gives tips on hosting workshops, starting and sustaining poetry reading and writing groups and creating writing exercises.

To drive home the importance of poetry and literary arts programs in public schools, the group gives performances of a farcical act, People Against Poetry, as a tongue in cheek reminder of what the world would be like without creative input. In it, the players adopt the persona of anti-poetry activists to solicit pro-poetry arguments from passers-by. Assembly member Ben Pelhan is filming these events to make a documentary of the people and places where poetry is being kept alive in their travels.

“We may have advanced degrees, but no one needs a degree to write a poem or to love a poem,” Smith said. “We want to engage, in lively and productive ways, with the vast network of poets and writers that perhaps go unacknowledged by the mainstream poetry and literature world because they write outside of the academy.”

Smith’s poetry can be heard online at S.E. Smith: http://youtu.be/MECCljawTlg.

For more information, call Artbeat Gallery 724-833-9058.



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