by Nina Welch
Poetry Hour is a time for a gathering at the back of Beach Town Books, 99 Avenida Serra, on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 5 p.m. On such an occasion, a small group of poets gather in a cozy setting among shelves of colorful books, a stone’s throw from the poetry section. A poet reads his poem about aging and tells us in the last stanza that there are no wrinkles in his mind or in his spirit. There’s a joyful poem filled with sunshine and rainbows and one that’s a remembrance of a father’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Poignant verses are read from a loving husband to his wife in flashes of gray in the shimmering green. Humorous words staggering across the page are recited about Grandma’s Saturday night, and in another poem there are memories of wet clothes hanging on a clothesline under an apricot tree. A new member reads his love poem with a dark ending. This is just a glimpse of what comes from this group of poets in one hour, one night in a charming independent bookstore.
Poetry Hour is hosted by Chester Delagneau, writer and spoken word poet. Her performances were digitized for the Hope Cartel website, a digital network that produces poetry podcasts and a print magazine. Hope Cartel’s demographics include late teens and early 20s. The concept is to give a voice, through poetry, to those who are angry or slightly depressed.
Born in Nicaragua, Chester came to the United States when he was five years old. After struggling with academia, he discovered poetry in high school. His influences are Federico Garcia Lorca, Ruben Dario, Pablo Neruda and Leonard Cohen. Chester’s earlier training included philosophy, ethics, and theology, which he finds brought together in his poetry. In his own philosophical way, he tells what poetry means to him. “Poetry is where truth and meaning come together. Poetry gives meaning to truth. If you don’t put the truth into a poem, it tends not to make sense. And if you don’t put meaning into a poem, it tends not to be relatable. He shared his poem, Power of ADHD, during 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 a lot of humility. When new people arrive, they are not intimidated because they are welcomed with kindness. According to Chester, Poetry Hour is for people who need to breathe, take time for themselves to share their poetry or just listen. It’s a place where people can heal by hearing the stories of others. Right now, more than ever, people need a creative outlet. It is not a luxury but a necessity for the human soul. “My vision is to have seasoned poets mentor budding 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 Poetry Hour among contributing poets, sessions have recently been extended to the second and fourth Thursdays of each month and the third Thursday is now open for flash fiction readings. Chester also asked the poets to join him for an open mic at Knuckleheads Bar on Wednesday evenings at 9 p.m.
Thanks to Beach Town Books for opening their store and their hearts and minds to welcome the poets and their works. Poetry Hour is for those who love poetry or for those who are curious about poetry, and even for those who don’t like poetry or don’t think they like poetry. Everyone is welcome.