News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 30, 2009

Poets, listeners pack downtown coffee shop for Poetry at the Grounds

TERRE HAUTE — The last syllables of a percolating hip-hop poem still echoed in the minds of the audience.

Then Andrea Stevens took her turn at the microphone. Pulling back her long, black hair, Stevens gently recited “Mountains” and “Beauty.” They were two of many original poems Stevens has penned in her 63 years.

“Poetry is a mirror that shows us who we are,” Stevens said, moments later, “an inescapable mirror.”

Eventually, 16 people stood before a full house at The Coffee Grounds while dusk fell on Wabash Avenue the evening of April 16. They came to read aloud poems they’ve written or admired for Poetry at the Grounds. The event, conducted on the third Thursday of every month at that coffeehouse at 423 Wabash, has attracted poets of varying experience, ages and styles since it debuted last October.

This month’s session included 39-year-old Indiana State University professor Carl Klarner, reading Eugene V. Debs’ testimony to a federal court from 1918. Emily Brown, 18, read “The Hug Poem.” Twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Long read “Campaign Slogan” and “The Death of the Word Mouth.” And Joe McGlone, 18, read a trilogy of poems on his observations of ecological changes at a beach.

“It’s like poetic note-taking, I guess,” said McGlone, a Terre Haute South Vigo High School senior.

The mix of readers impressed Aaron Morales, an ISU English professor who dropped by to drum up interest in the school’s creative writing courses.

Morales jumped in, too, reading a humorous poem “Rednecks.”

“You’ve got everything from romantic people to bitter people to political people,” Morales said during a smoke break on the sidewalk outside the rustic shop’s broad front window. “I like to see the representation of young people and older people. It’s a disparate group. They have no real reason to be talking to each other, and yet here they are.”

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