I wanted to tell you about the poetry benefit that SF Insight held for the Khuphuka Project on Oct. 14, 2011. We had about eleven poets sharing their poetry (one actually SANG a couple of Langston Hughes poems, which was amazing), and about sixty people attending. About five or six sangha members volunteered to bake cookies. We also had tea. However, it turned out to be the single warmest night I think in San Francisco history, so we had to dash out and buy cold water to drink instead! No problem! The whole event was a little like a Tibetan sand painting, first nothing is there, than something beautiful is created, then it is intentionally dismantled. We arrived an hour before “showtime” to a bare room. The set up crew (six sangha members who’d met for some Mexican food down the street prior to the event, and were, therefore, emotionally and physically nourished) set to work, setting up chairs in 3 arcing lines, setting up tables and putting on tablecloths, one table at the front door with lots of Khuphuka literature and CDs, one table for the drinks, another for the cookies. As more people arrived, they too joined in to help create the ambience. We created a podium out of a music stand covered in front by a lovely piece of cloth, and decorated the walls with left-over event flyers, and art work from the children of KwaZulu Natal, who had sent it to a kindergarten class here in the San Francisco bay area, in appreciation for art the children here had sent them. Our event flyer was created by the incredibly artistic and generous Wendy Ricks, and featured a poem on it by Thanissara. I’m including it here, so you can see how beautiful and inspiring it was.
After the event was over, the beautiful setting was quickly dismantled, and we left the room as sparkling and clean as a floor might be after a Tibetan sand painting has been swept away.
Poetry events have lots of benefits. Aside from the obvious (and wonderful) raising of money for worthwhile projects ( this benefit raised over $800), there is the opportunity for poets to share their poetry, and for the community to hear it. There also is the opportunity for the poets and others in the community to collaborate — to work together, and play together — to make something beautiful happen. And because of this there is a natural opportunity to build community.
Poetry is an extraordinary art form, and best, I think when shared out loud. Poetry benefits are not difficult to put together; I think the world could use more of them. Just sayin’.