Glenis Redmond ups the poetry quotient at the Peace Center
January 5, 2014
Paul Hyde, The Greenville News - 12:13 a.m. EST January 5, 2014
"Every time I hear King speak, I feel a rumble.
Every time I hear King speak, my soul stands up.
Every time his oceanic voice ripples, that fist-sized organ in my chest quakes, a pleasant storm.
Evern from a TV screen, his projected presence incites a righteous riot in my soul..."
-from "Peace Be Still" by poet Glenis Redmond
The inspiration of Martin Luther King Jr. is rarely far away from Glenis Redmond's socially conscious poetry.
"I'm a King baby, a civil rights baby," said Redmond, a Greenville native and nationally recognized poet.
"I was born the day before King's 'I Have a Dream' speech," she added. "A lot of my work throughout my career has centered around King, consciously and uncousciously. It's been a thread through my work."
Redmond and Furman University poet Gilbert Allen will pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader in "Poetic Conversations About King and Social Justice" on Jan. 27 at the Peace Center.
The event will be the first of three annual Poetic Conversations at the Peace Center. Redmond, now in her second year as the Peace Center's poet-in-residence, created the series to showcase regional poets reading from their own work on a specific topic.
"My belief is that we have these deep issues that need discussing and sometimes they're difficult," Redmond said. "But I think that poetry is a vehicle that goes in depth."
Redmond specializes in poetry geared toward performance and has established a national reputation for her dynamic presence.
"What I think is wonderful about Glenis is the way she manages to combine spoken-word poetry with what I would call traditional poetry on the page," Allen said.
Redmond invited Allen, the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature at Furman, to participate in the first Poetic Conversations partly because of their complementary viewpoints but contrastic styles.
"I read a poem of Gil's six or seven years ago that deals with a social issue, and I never forget how a poem resonates with me," Redmond said. "I asked him to speak also because we come from different angles. I come from a spoken-word, performance and autobiographical angle, and he's an academician. I wanted to have two voices that are not necessarily opposites but counterparts. As we go forward with Poetic Conversations, we'll always try to get people who are coming from different doors but going to a similar place."
Allen said he immediately accepted Redmond's invitation to participate.
"Over the years I've written on a lot of different topics, and I certainly don't consider myself a social activist," Allen said. "But I do try to be a responsible member of my community, and sometimes poems and stories come to me that have political and social implications."
The Jan. 27 event will establish the pattern for future Poetic Conversations: readings by two poets, followed by audience feedback.
"I'll do 15 munutes of poetry, then Gil will do 15 minutes, and we'll go back and forth," Redmond said. "Toward the end, we'll have a talkback with the audience."
Poetic Conversations will make use of the Ramsaur Studio, a new space created through the Peace Center's extensive renovations completed in 2012.
Future Poetic Conversations for 2014 are in the planning stages, Redmond said.
Poetic Conversations is an extension of Peace Voices, a poetry-centered program created by Redmond along with Peace Center vice president Staci Koonce and CEO Megan Riegel.
As part of Peace Voices, Redmond has held a series of poetry workshops and public readings with young people at the Peace Center. The sessions have been free and open to any aspiring poet.
Redmond's young poets will be featured in a reading on Feb. 16. Also, a poetry festival will be held at the Peace Center on May 2 and 3.
Redmond has mentored students at local schools as part of the program.
"I've worked with both public and private middle schools and high schools in the Upstate," Redmond said. "I'll do three workshops with the students, and then we'll have a poetry reading at the Peace Center's Gunter Theatre. It's been great. We've had anywhere from 200-250 people come and watch 30 or 40 students read their work."
Redmond has substantially upped the Peace Center's poetic quotient in other ways as well, such as by creating poetry workshops and public readings for adults.
In conjunction with the Dick Riley insitute, Peace Voices last summer hosted "Voices of Diversity," with 27 community members reading autobiographical poetry on the Gunter Stage. The next Peace Voices adult reading will be held in the spring.
Redmond was the first person ever to be appointed poet-in-residence at the Peace Center, although her association with the center extends back more than 15 years through educational performances.
She spends about five months of the year on poetry activities at the Peace Center, dividing her time here with extended visits to homes in Charlotte and New Brunswick, N.J., where she works as poet-in-residence at the New Jersey State Theatre.
"I think it's great that Glenis is getting the Peace Center involved more with presenting literature to the public," Allen said.
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YOU CAN GO
What: "Poetic Conversations About King and Social Justice," featuring poets Glenis Redmond and Gilbert Allen
When: 6:30 p.m. on January 27, 2014
Where: Peace Center's Ramsaur Studio (located inside the Huguenot Mill building), 101 W. Broad St.
Information: 864.679.9203 or www.peacecenter.org