Kristin Kowalski Ferragut
DiVerse Poetry: Always Moving Me Along and Moving to the Casey Center in June
DiVerse Poetry Reading Series has been a staple for me, both in my social and internal life. I missed surprisingly little through quarantine, but I missed these monthly readings, which might be to say I need the inspiration of words and camaraderie of Poets. An outstanding group of people!
I first attended DiVerse at Gaithersburg Library in January of 2018. The featured readers were Luther Jett and Sunil Freeman. Being wow’d by their poetry, as well as poems read in the Open Mic, I returned in February to hear Sarah Browning, Alan King, and Joanna Howard. With powerful words, beauty and imagery, these Poets expanded what poetry could be for me.
I bravely asked to join Lucinda Marshall, the Founder and original host of DiVerse, at her poetry workshop. The core group includes Lucinda, Luther, Serena Agusto-Cox, Fran Abrams, and Eve Burton — all gifted Poets. It was winter of 2018. I turned my attention tentatively back to writing in 2015, after concentrating most of my efforts on parenting, teaching, bread winning and experience-making for twelve years or so. Out of practice, I wrote inconsistently, both in way of time spent growing my art and in quality. I was so nervous to join this established group of writers! So I delved into form, a safer space, I thought, and drafted a sonnet to present at my first workshop. It was clever enough but I think missed some emotional truth I’ve come to expect from good poetry. Still, the group was gracious; generous in noting strengths and gentle in offering feedback.
Between hoping to catch up with the great caliber of work presented in workshops and wanting to feel good about presenting my own pieces at DiVerse’s Open Mic, I found a groove with regular poetry practice and my work benefited. I still think I have much growth to make as a Poet, writer, artist. But DiVerse helped me feel comfortable embodying these roles, reaching for my voice, and putting it out there. I’m always grateful for my wonderful, supportive friendships, devoid of jealousy or spite, marked by rooting for each other’s success and happiness. In DiVerse I found an established group built upon these tenets.
With all that said, it’s no wonder that I missed DiVerse during the dark days of the pandemic. When Lucinda decided to step down as Host of DiVerse last fall and suggested that I take the reins, well, to say I was honored would be an understatement. DiVerse moved to Quince Orchard Library in April of 2019. The library provides a welcome place for Poets, running their own poetry workshop and housing a unique and wonderful collection of poetry books by local Poets. DiVerse was ready to rev back up there in January. Then Omicron. So the library halted events. But, as established, I need this. So I moved DiVerse outside at Java Junction, where I’ve spent many hours writing. I love that place — iced coffee made with coffee ice cubes so it’s never watered down, great sandwiches, low-key space, and the train. We began on a freezing Saturday in January outside, where Kelly Bradley and Indran Amirthanayagam accepted the challenge to brave the cold and re-launch DiVerse as featured readers offering inspired poetry that seemed revolutionary in the face of current events.
DiVerse continues at Java Junction. Today Pam Winters and Rocky Jones will be featured. I’ve heard them both several times and always find their work valuable. In May, the Great Reuben Jackson will read with Naomi Ayala. I haven’t yet heard her read and am looking forward to the opportunity. And then, the punchline, in June DiVerse moves to the Casey Community Center, one mile north of Shady Grove Metro on 355, on the first Thursday of each month 7:00-8:30 pm.
In February I met with Facility Manager, Jason DeMarchi, and Program Coordinator, Morenike Rossman to discuss a possible partnership between DiVerse and the Casey Center. I almost canceled. It had been a long day at work; it was cold out, and I don’t love meetings. Under the advice of a student who spent his break in my classroom (yes, that’s what it’s come to — I take most of my advice from teenagers) I kept the appointment. I am so glad I did! We enjoyed a lively conversation that felt more like poetry than a meeting. At the time, Quince Orchard Library utilized their meeting room for Covid testing. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge that priority but it left space for DiVerse a little up in the air. One of the many things I love about the Casey Center is their ability to pivot things outside, if needed, with little notice and engage in creative programming.
I met with Jason and Morenike again, with Casey’s Facility Coordinator, Ashlyn Thompson. I invited my “Publicist,” Steve Setzer, because I know myself to be impressionable and not always the fastest thinker. I asked him to help me look for signs of bureaucracy or things to dislike in the potential partnership. The bottom line is that there is nothing not to like. Jason, Morenike, and Ashlyn are entirely likable and their vision of welcoming and elevating poetry is inspiring. We brainstormed, planned, joked, and checked out their cool space for a couple of hours. I feel incredibly grateful that they’re willing to give DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry a home.
My daughter took ballet lessons at the Casey Center. I took both of my kids to visit Santa a couple of times at their holiday event. One of those was remarkable, being my first holiday after a recent separation from my former spouse. I did not imagine how I could light the holidays joyous for my kids at that time. The event at the Casey Center shifted my doubts. We had a blast.
I wrote a poem inspired by Casey Center’s wonderful silos while I waited in the parking lot one evening for my daughter to finish class. A bad draft, but enjoyable musings. Now I think to maybe unearth that draft to try it again. The space at Casey Center lends itself well to poetry and art in general.
Our partnership begins with Casey Center’s Be Your Best Self Fest on May 7th, 1:00-3:00. They’ll have music, jugglers, demonstrations, and much more, including poetry. I’ll be joined in reading there with Ann Bracken, Khalil Fahie, and Jay Hall Carpenter. See more here: https://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/about-us/city-facilities/casey-community-center/casey-community-center-calendar/be-your-best-fest
And to offer a sneak peak:
June 9th: The first DiVerse Reading to be held at Casey Center will honor the life and celebrate the memory of Venus Thrash, our dearly missed Poet and Friend. I’m grateful for Ethelbert Miller, Teri Cross Davis, and Jona Colson agreeing to be featured readers at this event.
July 7th: Le Hinton and Dana Kinsey
August 4th: Ethan Goffman and Claudia Gary
What an amazing group of Poets! And just when I think it can’t get much better, the folks at the Casey Center offer to serve coffee. There’s little I consider more luxurious than late-day coffee. But for those that may be more sensible, a tea alternative will also be available.
Please keep up with DiVerse ongoings at our website https://diversepoetry.com/ and on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DiVerseGaithersburgPoetryReadingAndOpenMic If you’re local, I hope to see you today, or next month, May 14th at Java Junction, or on a first Thursday this summer starting at June at the Casey Center. In the fall, we’ll be sure to bring back Lucinda to read, having her reading outed by Omicron, and C.L. Bledsoe, who was snowed out last month, as well as other phenomenal Poets. I’m grateful and humbled to be part of this community, by all of the talent I’m fortunate to host, as well as by the wonderful folks at the Casey Center. Always good to have something so beautiful to look forward to!