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Offering A ‘Fresh Take’ On Poetry, Readers Shared Favorite Works During Annual Event

Published: April 14, 2019 at 08:00 am

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From emergency call dispatchers to Italian neighborhoods, a wide variety of topics were celebrated at the annual Risk A Verse event, sponsored by Newtown Cultural Arts Commission, at Newtown Meeting House on April 7.

Members of the community — adults and children alike — read the work of poets that they found meaningful. The event is held every April as part of National Poetry Month.

Newtown Poet Laureate Lisa Schwartz and Newtown Cultural Arts Commission member Tracy Van Buskirk hosted the event, introduced the participants, talked a little about them, and also read poems.

Among the 16 participants were a teacher and student from Reed School.

Teacher Kirsten Strobel read Shel Silverstein’s “Sick,” a witty recap of dozens of ailments — some realistic, others not, such as “my spine ain’t straight, my temperature is 108” — from the perspective of a student. It culminates with “You say today is ... Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

“I think that last poem was describing me in the morning,” said John Bocuzzi Sr, representing Friends of Newtown Seniors.

Mr Bocuzzi followed with “First Born,” by Gil Fagiani. The poem told the story of a child adored, doted by family, vendors, the shoemaker, and tailor in a Bronx, N.Y.-based Italian neighborhood.

“When I’m five, my parents move to Connecticut. Nobody’s crazy about me there,” Mr Bocuzzi’s reading of the poem concluded, drawing plenty of laughter from the attendees.

“I had the good fortune of living in an Italian neighborhood in Stamford until I was 10, so I know exactly what he was talking about,” Mr Bocuzzi said.

Fifth grade student Troy DaSilva read “Foreign Lands,” by Louis Stevenson, about a person taking in the world from a cherry tree.

Ms Schwartz first learned of Troy’s love of poetry when she was working as a substitute at the Reed School library.

“Not only was he good, he has poet poise to his writing, and he can deliver it well,” Ms Schwartz said.

Newtown Emergency Communications Center Director Maureen Will shared “Dispatchers Are Invisible,” by Carole Mathys. This poem detailed the tough work of an emergency call dispatcher who needs five hands to answer phones, an ability to remember several codes, and to make quick decisions.

“As a dispatcher, I am invisible, you see. Except in emergencies, when you really need me,” Ms Will read, sparking a standing ovation from the few dozen people who packed the meeting house on Sunday afternoon.

Ms Schwartz said Ms Will was the first of those she reached out to who responded to be a part of Risk A Verse.

“She’s a first responder,” Ms Van Buskirk commented with a laugh.

Mark Murphy, who along with his brother opened Murphy’s Pub three years ago, performed on the guitar and read James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”

In another musical addition to the poetry reading, Mary Andreotta, singing, and Phil Crevier, on the piano, performed “Root Cellar,” by Theodore Roethke.

“I was very pleased with the turnout. I loved our two musical forms of poetry. I think it just brings variety to the presentation,” Ms Van Buskirk said.

Ms Van Buskirk added that it was nice to see four students this year, adding “I think it was a refreshing improvement.”

The event is a “fresh take” on poetry, Ms Van Buskirk said.

“Risk A Verse breaks stereotypes about who a poetry lover is. Some of our readers were gently teased by their friends because they were participating in a poetry reading,” Ms Van Buskirk added. “How easy it is to make judgments about what people ‘should’ be enjoying.

“In addition, all the attendees were able to get a deeper knowledge about each of the readers — not only their background, but what moves them emotionally. That is what builds community.”

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