State Theatre New Jersey

Sightlines

Community Poetry Reading with our Poet-in-Residence Glenis Redmond

Aretha Franklin. Frankie Valli. Crosby, Stills, & Nash. The Vienna Boys Choir. For decades, the State Theatre has been a showcase for legendary and unique voices. Ray Charles. Johnny Mathis. The Beach Boys. The Irish Tenors. Willie Nelson. Weird Al Yankovic. The list goes on and on.

On May 18, the State Theatre shines the spotlight on some lesser-known, but equally distinctive voices, in our Ninth Annual Community Poetry Reading. The highly-anticipated event is the culmination of this season’s six-week residency with poet Glenis Redmond, a free program now in its 10th season. Glenis has been traveling throughout the area, performing poetry and conducting writing workshops at schools, senior centers, halfway houses, shelters, and the State Theatre. She has been leading people of all ages, backgrounds, and conditions on a journey to discover their own poetic voices. Drawing on their unique perspectives—including family, heritage, familiar places, and formative experiences—they write deeply personal, expressive poetry.

All of the poems performed at the community event are products of the workshops, which have been held at New Brunswick’s Middle School, McKinley Community School, and Health Sciences Technology High School; New Brunswick Senior Citizen Resource Center; Marlboro Memorial Middle School; Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies; Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health & Biomedical Sciences; Damon House in New Brunswick; Anderson House in Whitehouse Station; and at the State Theatre itself, offered to the general public. The sheer variety of voices to be heard is one of the joys of the Community Poetry Reading. Middle and high school students, seniors, adults in recovery from addiction, and others—a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and conditions—come together to share their personal stories through poetry. The many-colored threads of human experience expressed in these poems weave themselves into a gorgeous tapestry of words and feelings.

Most of the readers’ poems are reflections on themselves or a close family member. But the poems by students from New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School celebrate people who, up until the residency, had been complete strangers. An intergenerational component of the residency brings together seniors from the high school and “super-seniors” from  the New Brunswick Senior Citizen Resource Center. Students conduct face-to-face interviews with their elders, drawing out a lifetime of stories and reminiscences to form the basis of tribute poems honoring the “super-seniors.”

The Community Reading is also a testimony to the transformative power of poetry. A prominent example are the poets from Anderson House, a residential treatment facility for women in recovery, where Glenis has been leading workshops since 2009. Helen McIntosh, the organization’s Clinical Director, wrote, “Our women are trauma survivors and poetry gives them a voice for the unspeakable. Glenis does a great job of putting the women at ease and helping them to reach the good and creative in each of them. They continue to talk about it long after Glenis is gone and they can pass what they have learned on to their children as well.”

State Theatre New Jersey’s Community Poetry Reading is on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 7pm. Location is the United Methodist Church, 323 George Street (opposite the State Theatre). People are encouraged to reserve free tickets in advance—and to bring friends and family!

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