Poetry in flight

CD showcases talents of Lawrence residents

An eclectic band of poets, actors and spoken word performers have joined together to produce a CD anthology showcasing the best works of Lawrence poetry.

The idea came to Robert Baker, a noted area performer, when he visited a poets forum in Austin, Tex., two years ago.

"It was an international poetry festival featuring 200 poets from across the world," Baker remembers. "To see these right-brain poets organize three days of readings and performances made me think that it could be done elsewhere."

Only Baker had more on his mind than just a gathering of poets performing their material  he knows that doesn't always go over so well.

"There's an old joke I like to tell ad nauseam. It's that nothing lasts forever...except poetry readings," he says.

So he joined up with a friend, Matt Fowler, who gathered the best of a diverse group of performers and writers to perform their works on a locally produced CD.

"The most important link in the preproduction of the CD was Matt," Baker says. "He's hosted and organized poetry readings for 10 years, and he's connected to everyone. We've probably never seen these 21 poets in any one place at any one time before."

The end result is "Kaw! Kaw! Kaw! As the Poets Fly From Lawrence, Kansas," a CD that was produced with the aid of Z'Gwon Th Studios, 920 1/2 Mass. It is the second such project the studio has assisted with. "Curves," a collection of material by Lawrence female singer-songwriters, was the first.

"Kaw! Kaw! Kaw!" features poets with a national and regional reputation, KU professors, spoken word performers and area actors more noted for their on-stage performances than their poetry.

The collection features 72 minutes of material from Stephen Spencer, Barry Barnes, Dixie Lubin, Stanley Lombardo, Renee Purtee, Dave Chipman, Matt Fowler, Cynthia Dahlberg, Stephen Dahlberg, Caryn Miriam-Goldberg, Joseph Griffin, Mickey Cesar-Argumedo, Creed Shepherd, Julie K. Thomsen, Kenneth Irby, Denise Low, Judith Roitman, Lori O'Dell, Samantha G. Florek, Marissa Pelot and Robert Baker.

Upcoming events: The poets will stage a reading at 9 a.m. Jan. 20 on KLZR 105.9 FM and will do another reading from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at Borders Books Music & Cafe. 700 N.H.

Poets such as Lombardo and Low have national reputations as performers and instructors. Barnes is noted for his poetry readings and Cynthia Dahlberg is well-known as a local actress, but Baker emphasizes that the diversity is one of the disc's highlights.

"This poetry is more accessible. It's not just an intellectual exercise," he says. "There is a full range of poets. It's a chance for listeners to sample what they want. It really features the range of what's called poetry in this town. I really like the work on here for what it is...the ideas on it, the use of language."

The writers gathered together and divided production assignments to help create and promote the CD. They also established a Web site. Visitors to www.poetsof.lawrence.ks.us can sample some of the material, though the site is still a work-in-progress.

Ultimately, the project helps introduce the poets to the audience and vice versa.

"I'm hoping it attracts more people to this range of poets," Baker says. "At the same time, it's an opportunity for the poets to broaden their audience. Because each poet brings his own specific audience to the CD."

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