Laura McCullough Stepping into the Light at Dante Hall Theater

I woke up early this morning.  I woke up when the grey light of morning rain filled the room.  I woke up and immediately thought of Laura McCullough dragging a podium out of the shadows and into the light at World Above: Free Poetry Night last night.

Dante Hall is not only a beautiful venue for the South Jersey Poets Collective’s monthly readings but the sound and lighting capabilities in the theater create a perfect environment for our audience.  Unforotunately, technical difficulties last night meant that there was no microphone available and the lighting situation was less than desirable.  Poets rose to the occassion, projecting their voices as the audience strained in the dim light to catch the expressions on their backlit faces.  It was an amazing night of poetry with 20 talented poets on the Open “Mic” and a beautiful reading from Emily Van Duyne to open for McCullough.

And then Laura McCullough, a woman who I met for the first time last night, stepped up to the podium.  And then she moved the podium out of the shadows and into a patch of light where she came to life and reminded everyone in the room that we as people and as poets owe it to ourselves and our community to step into the light.  Please watch the above clip.  It is powerful.

I firmly believe that as poets we are obligated to share our selves.  The words that we write are meant to be shared with a wider audience, to touch those who can benefit from the saving truths, deep insights or honest laughter that poetry can offer.  The vision for SJ Poets has always been to create a community of poets that can support each other in the arts, in daily life and in their careers.  We are slowly building that community and using each other’s strengths (of networking, photography, cooking, graphic design, and more) to bolster this presence.  This morning it occured to me that though our success to this point is notable, we have been reading in the dark.

I woke up this morning.  I woke up and recommitted myself to spreading the word about SJ Poets and World Above.  I woke up excited to reach out to the public in a more active way to build not just the involvement of local poets but to invite in a wider audience.  As poets, let us reach out to the playwrites, the dancers, the painters, the musicians.  As poets let us find those other artists who would enjoy a free evening of live entertainment; a welcome variance from the flickering TV.  Let us step into the light.  Let us take the opportunity to share what we have to offer and to hopefully form more connections and forge new collaborations.

I am already excited about World Above on August 28th featuring Joel Dias-Porter and Jeffrey McDaniel.  I am already thinking of how I will fill my lungs deep with air, how I will speak my words with strength, how I will stand in a pool of light and share that which I have to offer AND I am committing myself as a host to taking the time to look for that light for those other poets who surround me.  I mean this literally.  I vow as a camerawoman to ask soft spoken poets to speak up a bit or to direct speakers into better lighting.  I mean this figuratively as well.  I vow as a friend to continue to offer encouragement to those reading who lack the confidence that they deserve to be filled with, the confidence to come into a safe space and share their voice with an eager audience, the confidence not to be misinterpreted as a “Diva” but to claim a role as a poet worthy of being seen and heard in our community.

Thank you Laura McCullough.