Due to unforeseen circumstances, the April 1, May 6, and June 3 workshops with Kurt Dinan have been cancelled.
We’re all busy people, so let’s get right to it, shall we? I’m Kurt Dinan, high school English teacher, 2016 debut author, and the Cincinnati Public Library’s 2016-2017 Writer-in-Residence. I’ll be keeping this blog going for the next year, and figure it would be best to start with an introduction of sorts. I do best answering questions rather than just rambling about myself, so with that in mind I now present: The Kurt Dinan FAQ
Random Person: Wait, Kurt Dinan? That guy who graduated from Lakota High School in 1989, got his Bachelor’s degree from OU, his Master’s from Miami, who has taught English for twenty-two years, and who once won $1000 playing Bingo?
RP: And now you’re the writer-in-residence? Just to clarify, that means you’ll blog, do a podcast, and run writing workshops and other smaller events for the library over the course of the year?
RP: What are those workshops going to be about? Just guessing, but are they maybe a 5-session primer covering all aspects of writing a novel, from (1) developing the initial concept to (2) plotting to (3) writing tips to (4) revising to (5) getting published? Is that what you’re thinking?
RP: But don’t you have to have some sort of proven experience and knowledge to do something like that? You’d probably have to be a creative writing teacher and also have been writing for over ten years. In fact, it’d be nice if maybe you’ve had a novel published recently that you can draw from those experiences. Do you have any of that?
RP: Wait, I may have heard of it. Are you the guy who wrote, DON’T GET CAUGHT, the young adult novel about a prank war gone awry, filled with juvenile humor and terrible knuckleheaded behavior written to make the reader laugh?
RP: So I’m guessing that you’re going to use what you learned from writing that novel, procuring an agent, and selling the novel to a publisher as the foundation of your workshops, your posts here, and the podcast?
RP: That sounds great. I’m just hoping, you know, that you’re a lot better more lively and talking in person than you’ve been in this interview. Will you be?
Okay, so that’s it! I’m planning on updating this blog twice a month, and there should be a monthly podcast as well. You can follow me on Twitter at @kurtdinan and the Cincinnati Public Library at @CincyLibrary I’m really excited and looking forward to a great year!
The pizazz that accompanies National Poetry Month always promises the unexpected.
The glory of April showers its light on poetry readings that otherwise throughout the year are overshadowed by non-poetry-related experiences.
The most adventurous, experimental, or word-starved of us writers love this month. It brings out more poems written or spoken into the netherworld of passersby than a small library contains. Well, almost.
The month of April raises the platform for wannabe lyricists, original new voices, and seasoned poets, each empowered to try out new work, to fling poems out in the open and listen for the words to touch a new audience.
Poetry rocks in Cincinnati. It always has. It occupies a pedestal high enough for any poet to find, if one wants to find it.
And the unexpected is most welcome. Take the case of Dr. Walter Von Perrier, the fictitious president of the fictitious Fossing Institute.
The non-fictitious Steve Kemple, a librarian specializing in music in the Popular Library division at the Main Library, contrived the sheepish and comically erudite Walter Von Perrier to herald the arrival of “Experimental Music and Poetry” night at the main library.
It happened Wednesday, April 20. the exotic brainchild of Steve. That’s right: he created this fictitious Von Perrier who lugged around his big, fictitious manuscript of academic research. “Poetry is everywhere…even somewhere in this 600-page manuscript I’m holding.”
Let it be known that Steve Kemple revels in the unexpected. It’s just what we all got. And the evening was a hit parade.
Von Perrier, er, Kemple even prepped everyone before the musicians and poets joined artistic arms: “Well, let’s give this a try. It’s an experiment. It’s all an experiment. We’re throwing tonight up to chance. Literally. So, let’s get spinning.”
There were two “Chance Wheels” on two tables. Envision the “Wheel of Fortune” wheel diminished to a spare tire-size version. Imagine two tire-size wheels. Lovely wheels. You could spin each with two fingers. Well, most of the time.
Nice homemade wheels. They worked just fine.
The Chance Wheels contained the names of five musicians and five poets, respectively. Von Perrier, er, Steve Kemple had solicited musicians and poets in preparation of the collaboration. Names were on plain paper and taped to a wheel.
The wheels, when spun, sometimes wobbled their way to the same musician’s or poet’s name several times in a row. “No, sit back down,” Kemple joked. He was leading the hit parade of the unexpected. “You just played. Let’s spin it to someone else’s name.” Or, this: “Well, ah, no, you just read a poem. Let’s spin it again.”
And then: “Well, let’s spin the musician’s wheel one more time.” We had a lot of fun spinning the wheels.
By the way, the violin, guitar, snare drum, cymbal, trumpet, frying pan, typewriter, and synchronized audience chanting all worked marvelously to give the poems a courageous edge, a luxury of sound most poems seldom receive – unless it’s in a venue like this, where the unexpected will give birth to the art of juxtaposing music and poem.
Yes, the unexpected.
Poet and main branch librarian, Charles Gabel, collaborated with violinist Chase Watkins to get the most out of his maximal poems. Gabel’s discursive work, rich in luscious sound and quickening rhythms, paired beautifully with Watkins’ violin riff. In fact, Watkins even recorded his violin and Gablel’s poems as he read. Then, Watkins subsequently played them aloud in a “loop,” which caused this really interesting voice-over effect. Gabel read a poem “in the present,” while a just-recorded Gabel poem simultaneously could be heard through a speaker. Two simultaneous voices of Charles Gabel. Two simultaneous riffs by Chase Watkins.
Charles wasn’t expecting this, but it was a clever, attractive move. An experiment!
This kind of cacophony of sounds blossomed the whole evening. The sounds might have been either disquieting or really melodic (Josiah’s guitar), but they blossomed.
This so pleased the fictitiously-esteemed Dr. Walter Von Perrier, er, Steve Kemple, in his fake mustache. 1) You never knew what the wheels were going to do; 2) you never knew what the musicians were going to play while accompany the poets; and 3) you never knew what the poets were going to read.
Picture Walter Von Perrie of the fictitious Fossing Institute on Saturday Night Live, leading his troops of poets and musicians.
At one point, a woman, who did not write poetry, read a passage from an Anne Rule book that Von Perrier arbitrarily pulled off the shelf. “Read from this! Let’s see how this sounds…when matched with an instrument. Spin the musician’s wheel.” And off into the unexpected we went. The accompanying musician was so entertaining – and the reader so smooth – that they actually lifted the questionable quality of the Rule passage.
I hope the photographs of some of the musicians and poets give you a better visual.
Winding up the program, the fictitious Walter Von Perrier gave us an aesthetic boost: he complimented us poets and musicians. “I’m glad everyone took a chance on chance tonight.”