Beach Town Books Hosts Poetry Hour

by Nina Walch

Poetry Hour is a meeting time in the back of Beach Town Books, 99 Avenida Serra, on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. On one such occasion, a small group of poets gather in a cozy setting among shelves of brightly colored books, just a corner from the poetry section. A poet reads her poem about aging and in the last stanza tells us that there are no wrinkles in her mind or soul. There is a happy poem full of sunshine and rainbows and one reminiscent of a father’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Poignant verses are read by a loving husband to his shimmering gray wife in shimmering green. Humorous, page-swaying words are recited about grandma’s Saturday night, and in another poem there are memories of wet clothes being hung on a clothesline under an apricot tree. A new member reads her love poem with a dark ending. This is just a small taste of what this group of poets is bringing out in one hour, in one evening, at a charming independent bookshop.

The Poetry Hour is moderated by Chester Delagneau, a writer and spoken word poet. His performances have been digitized for the Hope Cartel website, a digital network that produces poetry podcasts and a print magazine. The demographics for Hope Cartel are late teens and early 20s. The concept is to give a voice through poetry to those who are angry or mildly depressed.

Chester was born in Nicaragua and came to the United States when he was five years old. After struggling with academia, he found poetry in high school. His influences are Federico Garcia Lorca, Ruben Dario, Pablo Neruda and Leonard Cohen. Chester’s background included philosophy, ethics and theology, which he believes come together in his poetry. In his philosophical way he tells what poetry means to him. “In poetry, truth and meaning come together. Poetry gives meaning to truth. If you don’t build the truth into a poem, it usually doesn’t make sense. And if you don’t infuse meaning into a poem, it tends to be elusive.” He shared his poem Power of ADHD in a Poetry Hour session.

Poets in this close-knit group include Chester and his wife Sari, Diana, Sandy, Lupe, Mary Jo, Rod, Maddy and Nina. Poetry Hour is a place of encouragement, growth, attitude and lots of humility. When new people come in, don’t be intimidated by the warm welcome. According to Chester, Poetry Hour is for people who need to breathe, take time to share their poetry, or just listen. It is a place where people can heal by listening to other people’s stories. People need a creative outlet now more than ever. It is not a luxury but a necessity for the human soul. “My vision is to have veteran poets as mentors for aspiring poets,” says Chester. The readings allow the younger generation and the older generation to come together and watch the sparks fly.
Due to enthusiasm for the Poetry Hour among contributing poets, the sessions have recently been expanded to include the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, and the third Thursday is now open for flash fiction readings. Chester has also asked poets to join him for the open mic at Knuckleheads Bar on Wednesday night at 9pm.

Thank you Beach Town Books for opening up their store and their hearts and minds to host poets and their works. Poetry Hour is for those who like poetry or are curious about poetry, and even for those who don’t like poetry or think they don’t like poetry. Everyone is welcome.

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