The lead story of the March 30th City Paper, which served as the cover to their quarterly book issue, focuses on Philadelphia’s poetry scene. A.D. Amorosi does an admirable job profiling the scene, focusing on the individuals who have been doing heavy lifting over a number of years to establish and further the art form in the city.
Amorosi uses CA Conrad as a window into that scene. Conrad, an adventurous poet, has met with quite a bit of success in recent years. Soft Skull Press, a highly regarded independent publisher, published two well-received volumes from Conrad, who is an active reader and formerly ran reading series in the city.
But Conrad, who was also profiled the week prior in Philadelphia Weekly, is by no means the end of the poetry scene. Amorosi speaks with Frank Sherlock, a frequent collaborator of Conrad; Leonard Gontarek, who runs reading series and workshops; Andy Kahan, who books most of the readings at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia; and Tom Devaney, a poet who produces a variety of events and teaches at Penn and Haverford.
In addition to their (perhaps unsurprisingly) positive take on today’s poetry scene, Amorosi also outlines days that, strangely, sound aggressive and unpleasant.
The feature, ultimately, composes a portrait of the community that has arisen around and with the people with whom Amorosi spoke. And in a city that supposedly prides itself on its communities—but doesn’t always deliver the promises thereof—it’s nice to read about one that seems to be working.
One item of possible concern is just how white the poetry scene seems to be, at least as portrayed here. Perhaps the only Philadelphia poets who are on the rise right now are indeed white. But that might make for an interesting follow-up story. Philadelphia is home to prominent non-white poets like Sonia Sanchez and Linh Dinh—both of whom are clearly accepted by what poetic establishment there is—and those like Trapeta Mayson and Ursula Rucker, who perhaps aren’t. And in a city as diverse as this one, other poetry scenes are perhaps worth a look as well.
– Nick Gilewicz