There was no exchange of laurel crowns between the Poet Laureates of our fair city. Instead, a shiny green Pencil of Inspiration was passed from one poet to the other. An enthusiastic audience enjoyed the festivities last Tuesday, as Christina Hutchins passed the title to Toby Bielawski.
Christina emerged at the far side of the pool after a three-year swim as Albany’s first Poet Laureate. Read more about Christina and her tenure in this post at the city’s website.
Christina is a fabulous reader, but also a gifted teacher. In 2010, she took on the Wednesday evening Poetry Writing Workshop, where she has encouraged many students to read at the open mic on the Second Tuesdays. Christina is a continual source of inspiration at the open mic, as well, putting our place and time on the page.
This year, Toby Bielawski takes on the title of Poet Laureate and brings her own keen observations to the post. Toby has also shared excellent work at the open mic. Her love of wordplay is evident and her mental energy is felt by all. It will be fun to see her turn the potentially pompous job of laureate into the “poet next door,” the only kind we want in Albany!
Toby proposed an intriguing idea: a Poetry Map of Albany. She called on writers to find local sites of poetic inspiration and offer the poems and “their locations” to the public. She hopes to create a Google map of our collective inspiration. (Christina Hutchin’s poem about the old Albany Pool must stand as a place on our poetic map! Even though the pool is gone, her experience of it is a bold, black X of buried pleasure.)
At evening’s end, Christina told the audience that the Second Tuesdays series has become the poetic center of the Bay Area. Many poets want to read here, either as featured poets or at the open mic. Much of the thanks goes to Catherine Taylor, the person who selects the poets each month and creates a balance of voices and visions. And, of course the Friends of the Albany Library, makes the dreams come true with their financial support.
Youtube recordings from January 10 are shown below.