At 2:00pm, on the most relaxing Saturday afternoon, the Poetry Walk convened in the newly-opened Station Square Park. It was hosted by renowned poet Larry Jaffe, who introduced the first poet of the day: Tampa Bay Informer’s own Ana Livingston. It was such a serene sitting in the shade surrounded by the beauty of the park and good company. The weather was neither too hot nor too cold - one of those beautiful Florida spring days.
The walk covered five venues in Downtown, and each venue was hosted by a different speaker and featured readings from local poets, each of whom have poems in “The Little Book of Cleveland Street Poetry Volume II.”
After the first series of readings ended, we moved across the street to the Jim Warren Gallery and listened to many accomplished poets including David Ziff who read a touching poem about requited love in Clearwater.
One thing this reporter especially enjoyed was the warm, receptive audience and the strong sense of community. The company was pleasant, and people complimented each other and gave encouraging words. “I’m really pleased to be in this town at this time doing what we’re doing,” said Stazja McFadyen, the MC for the Jim Warren Gallery readings. “We have an incredibly supportive community in downtown.”
We then walked a block down Cleveland Street to Peter Gillham’s Nutrition Center, for more poetry readings and delicious smoothie “shots”. People came and went between the venue changes, but the crowd always seemed to grow. I ran into Farin Fisher and Elizabeth Johnson, friends of mine growing up, and was delighted to find that they were both reading that day.
The group crossed the street to Tony’s Pizzeria. I was most surprised when Tony Starova took the floor and read his only English poem for us, cheered on by encouragement from the supportive crowd. Tony was a journalist and wrote poetry in his native Albania, and now serves some of the best pizza in Clearwater!
We continued our “walk” a couple of blocks down Cleveland Street, then turned the corner twice to reach Laura Street, where delicious homemade fudge was waiting for us courtesy of Renee Cornish at the Warehaus Boutique. Shelly Jaffe spoke about her love for downtown business before she read her poem, and the readings were concluded by a wonderful poem about the arts renaissance in Clearwater.
The walk ended up at Artists in Action’s Mission: Beautification Gallery with the release of “The Little Book of Cleveland Street Poetry Volume II.” The book costs $10, includes 50 original poems and is well worth the price based on the samplings of poems I heard that day.
Artists in Action, International also puts on “Poetry by Candlelight” on the first Friday of every month at their new downtown gallery at 400 Cleveland Street. Aspiring wordsmiths of any age can come and read their work before a receptive audience, much like the poetry walk.
For more information, go to www.artistsinactionint.org.