The power of poetry is going to rock the Apollo Memorial Library on Friday.
“The “Pittsburgh Poets Rock the Apollo” poetry reading at 7:30 p.m. is part of the library’s three-part series introducing six published poets to the area.
“Poetry can go to the heart when people are open to it,” said Angele Ellis, who will be reading a selection of her poems.“The experience of reading poetry and having someone hear it and respond to it is like sending out a message in a bottle. When someone receives that and responds to it, it is very exciting. There is a power in poetry.”
Friday evening is the second installment in the series and will feature poetry read by Ellis and Scott Silsbe. The series began in September with readings from Kristopher Collins and Don Wentworth. The final installment is Feb. 13 and features poets Renée Alberts and Robert Walicki.
“I hope this will cultivate more of an interest in poetry,” said Library Director Molly Troy. “This is a wonderful thing to celebrate – there is so much talent in the area.”
Wentworth, a librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and editor of Lilliput Review magazine, helped to organize the poetry series. He said poetry should be accessible and noted that a lot of people have been turned off because it is often poorly taught in schools.
“A poem doesn’t work unless it connects,” he said.
The work of Silsbe and Ellis is diverse, but each contains a lot of lyricism and depth of feeling, Wentworth said.
Ellis’s work has been influenced by her involvement in peace and justice issues and from her community activism in her Friendship neighborhood. Those experiences – as well as her Lebanese and Italian background – find expression in her poetry. She identifies as an Arab-American and deals with issues of prejudice in her book of poems, “Arab on Radar.”
Her work has appeared in numerous publications and she is also the author of “Spared,” part of Main Street Rag Editor’s Choice Chapbook Series, and co-author of “Dealing With Differences,” published in 1997.
“For me, the personal is political and the political is personal,” Ellis said.
Silsbe finds inspiration from music – he plays guitar and bass in a couple of bands – and from everyday life around Pittsburgh.
“I’m inspired by language and how people talk about things,” he said. “And music creeps into my poems here and there.”
For those who might think poetry readings are stuffy, formal affairs, Silsbe wants to prove them wrong.
“I encourage the audience to be interactive. Feel free to heckle me if you want,” he said.
Silsbe was born in Detroit and lives in Pittsburgh. He has published widely, is the managing editor of The New Yinzer magazine and is the author of two collections of poems —“Unattended Fire” and “The River Underneath the City.”
Poets see the world differently, even if it’s just for a moment, Silsbe said.
“Sometimes poems are about capturing that moment, and something shifts. In that way, poetry can change a person’s world view,” he said. “Poetry makes life better.”
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.