Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Song of Poetry

By Suzy Paluzzi
Santa Clara Weekly
April 28, 2010 - May 4, 2010

Santa Clara County’s first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson, the Master of Ceremonies for “Poetry in Song,” states, “As Santa Clara’s Poet Laureate, I would think myself a success if I could get more things going like this.” Peterson is referring to St. Mark’s Poetry Project’s program, “Poetry in Song,” a unique forum to present “songs that are poetic; poems which have been set to music; poems spoken about music, and poems that are spoken to music,” as Sharon Martin, producer, explains.

On April 18 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Santa Clara, the fourth annual “Poetry in Song” took place on a lovely spring day. The backdrop for beautiful music and words was the altar filled with flowers and the sunlight streaming through stained glass windows. April is National Poetry Month, so the timing is fitting. The first part of the production included poetry by Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, and Robert Frost. Sharon Martin, producer, also sings soprano and presented, “Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening.” An ensemble of nine women sang Shakespeare excerpts. The ensemble includes Martin, her mezzo-soprano daughter Annmarie, and the rector of St. Mark’s, Linda Taylor.

The second portion of the afternoon was devoted to original works. Karl Kadie addressed a friend’s plight in the current economy, and other serious topics were homelessness and a heart attack suffered by Bill Costley, among other presentations.

Bill Costley and Sharon Martin began The St. Mark’s Poetry Project five years ago. “For years I conducted discussion groups in my home, and I began with reading a poem. Costley was a member and was inspired by the opening poem, since poetry has a role in his life. He suggested we start a poetry group,” says Martin. “Our group is very open, friendly, and uncritical. It is not a critique group,” she adds. There is no fee to join.

For the last four years, “Poetry in Song” has been The Poetry Project’s crowning achievement. The themes vary, but the constant thing is that the show is about “Poetry in Song.” “There are endless possibilities. We have done madrigals, art songs, pop songs, and Broadway,” Martin gives as examples.

During this portion of the show, expert pianist and accompanist, Charles Cramer remarked how several of the talented there were former students of Santa Clara’s Duane Garton. Garton was in the audience and acknowledged heartily.

After the intermission, the music became a little lighter. “Broadway has enriched our social fabric,” remarked the producer, Martin, and selections including those from Cole Porter, “Kismet,” and “Gypsy,” were introduced. Baritones added to some of the music and the professional strong voice and performance of Annmarie Martin were highlights.

Peterson’s role is to punctuate the event with readings and explanations of his own. He has been invited since the beginning. He and Martin have been associates for years and the connection is San Jose State University and Poetry Center San Jose. Peterson is a Professor Emeritus of San Jose State, where Martin’s children attended college, and PCSJ Founding Member and Board Emeritus. Proceeds from the inexpensive and elevating afternoon go to the sponsors, The St. Mark’s Poetry Project and Poetry Center San Jose.

“Poetry carries us to share and lifts our hearts,” suggests poet Karl Kadie. “ I wish more people were in the know so they could enjoy this,” remarks audience member, Pam, from Alviso.

For more information about The St. Mark’s Poetry Project, call (408) 655-9988. is Nils Peterson’s blog. See for Poetry Center San Jose highlights.

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