Poetry for Everyone
The Calliope Reading Series flourishes in West Falmouth.
In a kitchenette filled with late afternoon light and fresh-cut tulips, Alice Kociemba steeps a cup of tea. In observing her surroundings, one can see that grace surrounds her. It is a gift that she shares through her Calliope poetry reading series which runs September to June at the West Falmouth Library.
Poetry found Kociemba at an unlikely time. After a severe injury to her head, she was unable to “read or drive or work for six months.” She credits Emily Dickinson with helping her through it.
“Her life was limited, as mine was, yet her message was expansive and timeless,” said Kociemba. “I could only read about one (short line) poem per day because of my head injury — so the emotional connection was very strong.”
Kociemba developed a passion for poetry readings by attending two Boston poetry series, Chapter and Verse at a historic house in Jamaica Plain and the Brookline Reading Series.
“I loved hearing a wonderful poet, and it was easier to go into the city and try things out because of the anonymity.” She perceived at these readings “a sense of uplift” and thought that something similar would be great for the Cape.
In April of 2007, she and friend Gretchen Buntschuh organized a National Poetry Month Reading. The next year, they mounted their first short series, which ran January to June in 2008. The first reading of that series, they had 17 inches of snow – and 17 people in the audience. Calliope is now in the latter half of its fourth season and their most recent reading saw 36 attendees.
Each reading features a poet from the Cape, a poet from Boston and one from beyond. The scheduled poets read for an hour. Afterward, there is a 45-minute open mic which anyone can sign up for by arriving 15 minutes before the reading begins. The reading closes with refreshments and a chance for audience and poets to mingle.
The series’ success has been in part due to an appealing location, the West Falmouth Library. With its “working fireplace and open area,” Kociemba calls it “an intimate and gracious space,” and expressed appreciation for the support of Pam Olson, the library’s director.
It’s not all writers who attend Calliope readings. Kociemba recounts two nurses who attended a special outdoor reading this summer. According to Kociemba, they commented, “I didn’t know poetry could be fun!”
Though running the series is a big job, there’s one thing Kociemba doesn’t have to worry about at this point: attracting writers. Poets come to her. Today, she has a two-year waiting list for poets who want to read, but she comforts them with this: “Poetry doesn’t expire like food. If it’s good this year, it will be good next year too.”
Calliope’s next reading will be Thursday, February 27, and will feature three accomplished poets: January Gill O’Neill from Beverly, recognized in 2010 as one of the twelve “debut poets to follow” by Poets and Writers, Jadene Felina Stevens, the founder of the Cape’s Salt Wind Poets and Dzvinia Orlowsky, a recipient of the Pushcart Prize, who teaches at Pine Manor College. The reading will run from 3 - 5 pm at the West Falmouth Library on Rte. 28A.