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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday — February 4, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Where the audience is the entertainment

Express Staff Writer

Audiences are restless. Perhaps, it’s thanks to TV, remote controls and video games. But these days, watching is not enough. People want to be involved; it’s all about interactivity. They want to rise up from their seats and be the singer, musician, comic or storyteller. They want to go on stage and be the poet.

Open mic nights and poetry readings are back. These days they’re occurring at various spots around the valley: SPACE on Saturdays, occasionally at the Coffee Grinder, and at the frequent gatherings of the Not So "Dead Poets Society."

Even the Wood River High School got into the act Saturday, Jan. 31, by hosting a Poetry Café in the school’s commons area.

So what’s the attraction?

Well, poetry is a charming form of letters. Some might think it once was better. But it’s still written and it’s read. It’s at the formal end of literature, just storytelling told in miniature instead.

And it doesn’t stop there. The interactive aspect extends to Poetry Slams wherein the audience becomes the judge.

In fact, ever since Marc Smith, a poet from Chicago initiated the first "Poetry Slam" in the mid-1980s at the Green Mill Bar in Chicago, slams have spread across the nation. Ten years ago, the now defunct Main Street Book Café in Ketchum held them monthly and then they were put on monthly by Iconoclast, in its original store. Gary Hunt, owner of Iconoclast, is again hosting frequent poetry readings in the store’s now bigger space on Main Street.

"We are going to be doing a event for Pablo Neruda, this year for his 100th birthday," Hunt said. "All the publishers are making a big deal about it. We’ll have a big birthday party for him and have readings in English and Spanish."

Another poetry event will take place May 9 when author and poet Jim Harrison will be reading at the Community Campus Theater at the invitation of the Hailey Cultural Center. Along with him will be Joseph Bednarik, who has long published Harrison’s collected poems. Bednarik will conduct an onstage interview with the normally reclusive Montana-based writer, in front of an audience.

"He’ll read from his new books," Hunt said. "All in the name of Ezra Pound. He loves old Ezra. Basically, he’s doing an homage."

Hunt added that since April is National Poetry month, there will be a "big poetry event coinciding with that."

The Not So "Dead Poets Society" was started by Gary Hoffman in 2002 and has been gathering occasionally at Tully’s in Ketchum. As of February the group will move to Strega, where the hours are later as well there being food and wine available, Hoffman said.

Normally readers share previously published material from such poets as "Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charles Bukowski, Robert Service, Rudyard Kipling and Ogden Nash is always popular," Hoffman said.

"It’s kind of fun, we have a good time, and get a real cross section. Along with readings, I have tapes of the great poets, and I play a couple of poems read by the poets themselves." The next gathering is Thursday, Feb. 12.

Poetry aside, other establishments are offering interactive nights. The Ketchum establishment, the Coffee Grinder, for instance, is now having regular activity evenings, also on Thursday evenings, from 7 to 9 p.m.

This month its Love Month at the Grinder, starting with Speed Dating on Feb. 5. In the following weeks there will be Make Your Sweetie a Valentine on Feb 12, Acoustic Love Song Night, Feb. 19, and Relationship Forum, Feb. 26.

These fun-filled activities clearly are intended to take you right through every step of a relationship, all in one short month.

Speed dating, done all over the country and abroad, is like musical chairs dating. Singles gather at a café. Then couples are paired up at separate tables to begin their first date. Following approximately five minutes of conversation, a bell is rung, and the men move on to meet their next date.

There’s more. Much more. There’s karaoke. This sing-a-long to the dots can be found valley wide: at The Mint in Hailey, the Casino and the Roosevelt in Ketchum, Breezie’s in Fairfield, and every Saturday at the Silver Dollar in Bellevue. Even the Boiler Room in Sun Valley has gotten into the act hiring the valley’s karaoke specialists, Billie and Iris of Eboni iz Jammin’.

Open mic nights, of course are always intriguing. Who knows whom one may see or hear? The alternative performing venue in Ketchum, SPACE’s regular open mic nights is not only open to musicians but poets, storytellers, clowns and fools.

What could be more fun, more outgoing and silly, after all than making a spectacle of yourself in the name of entertainment?




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