Poetry is language used with intensity...

I could be wrong, but I have a sense that this year's Thanksgiving Eve Festival of American Music and Poetry is going to be one of our best!  Those who read this blog often know that I've been doing music right before Thanksgiving ever since seeing Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in NYC at Carnegie Hall during my seminary years.  My daughters were tiny - 3 and 5 - but we ALL loved the gig.  And now, ever since that experience, I've tried to bring people together to sing and share American music in the spirit of that wonderful concert.  (Check out some of Pete and Arlo's recordings for a feel, ok?)

In Saginaw, MI I put together a very folky band called the Saginaw Rounders that brought people together - and that was sweet.  In Cleveland, OH one of my favorite times was when Dianne sang, "God Bless the Child" and my music director - who had been in undergraduate school with Dr. King - shared some great African American classical music - and some incredible rag time, too.  In Tucson, AZ the shows got bigger and more wild - my favorite being the benefit we did after Hurricane Katrina.  And now in Pittsfield, MA the groove keeps getting better and better.

And if last night's practice was a harbinger of things to come... watch out!  We've got country and gospel - we've got blues and folk - with hymns and folk anthems, too.  Add some great American poetry - and the original compositions that our indie singer/songwriters are going to bring - and as Frank Zappa once proclaimed on "Lumpy Gravy" - THIS IS GOING TO BE A VERY DYNAMITE SHOW, BARRY!  Sweet, sweet harmonies - incredible guitar, mandolin and piano - and a very mellow groove. (This clip from Gillian Welch is how this year's band is starting to feel... dig it!)

This morning I read these words in one of my favorite Eugene Peterson's anthologies:

Poetry is language used with intensity. It is not, as so many suppose, decorative speech. Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking - and our ears, dulled with too much chatter - miss around and within us.  Poets use words to drag us into the depths of reality itself, not by reporting on how life is, but by pushing-pulling us into the middle of it. Poetry gets at the heart of existence. Far from being cosmetic language, it is intestinal. It is root language.  Poetry doesn't so much tell us something we never knew as bring into recognition what was latent or forgotten or overlooked.

This year - claiming the brilliant albeit emerging anti-greed critique of the Occupy Wall Street movement - we're sharing our take on this with the theme "Come On Up to the House." There will be poetry, there will be art and there will be sweet songs that proclaim:come on up and join this musical-mystical-poetic-creative-broken-joyful group of misfits who are searching for the best of life!  Come on up and don't waste anything that God has given you - the blessings or the sins - the hope or the darkness - the fears or the insights.  Just come on up to the house and find your seat at the banquet table of grace.

So dude - or dudess - if you are around on Wednesday, November 23rd at 7:30 pm - come on up to the house!


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