Paul Smith – The Corsair
It was October of last year; PJC student Patrick Hudson sat alone inside the End of the Line Café waiting for his friend, former PJC student Andrew Gartman, to join him. They were to discuss how, together, they would implement Gartman’s idea for creating a local poetry group.
Gartman never showed that day. A few days later, Hudson discovered that Gartman had died of complications due to AIDS.
Fast-forward a year, on Oct. 6, Hudson, 18, again sat inside the End of Line Café, only this time, he was not alone.
The café was brimming with an eager crowd ready to watch and participate in what has become the most popular poetry scene in town. It was poetry night at End of the Line Café, a regular Tuesday-night event organized by Hudson and put on by his group, the New Poets Society.
Though the original idea was conceived by Gartman, Hudson shared the same enthusiasm for poetry and desire to create a local group. So, Hudson sought to make it his duty to bring such a group into fruition.
“It’s always been a passion of mine, as far as writing the poetry goes and sharing,” said Hudson. “But, I really wanted to try and diversify the poetry community.”
And the readings have attracted a very diverse group of poets, indeed.
While the Tuesday night readings at End of the Line are certainly open-mic (meaning anyone with the desire can sign-up to read the night of the event), there is also a growing crowd of regulars returning each week with new material to present or to watch others read their work.
Tuesday night, Oct. 6, featured an eclectic mix of poets of all different ages, races, backgrounds, and poetry styles stepping up to the stage.
John Fravel, 61, read a poem about three troubled men in a hospital.
A passionate girl, and PJC student, who went by the name Iceiz, boisterously fired off several poems from memory dedicated to her girlfriend which were filled with ruminations on the nature of love and being a woman.
Trevor Griffith, 21, a philosophy major at UWF, sat down in a stool as he read two lengthy poems overflowing with vivid imagery and dreamlike plays on words.
Alex Borgella, 21, a psychology major at UWF, read a comical poem about a barber called “Lack-Hair Of,” which he stated was written in a manner inspired by Lewis Carroll.
Quincy “Q” Hull, 39, did a poem about the scourge of police brutality.
And several other poets also got up on the stage, each with a style uniquely their own. The raw sense of emotion and kinship on display this night was palpable.
“There’s a real sense of community here that’s hard to find in the real word,” said Fravel, who recently became interested in writing poetry after his wife, Annie, survived a brain aneurism. He found the medium as a cathartic way to express his emotions, and found the New Poets Society as the perfect outlet to express his newfound passion for poetry.
Hull, who is also a member of the Still Black See Artists and Writers Guild, described what he appreciated about the New Poets Society as “their love for the original art form in itself.”
“They haven’t taken it outside the original art,” said Hull. “It’s just the pen, the paper and the reader. They haven’t deviated outside of where it started from.”
“I wanted to inspire people to start writing poetry again and to take it as a serious art form,” said Hudson. “A lot of people, who started coming to the group and had never written poetry before, started writing poetry.”
Hudson has also tried to make the New Poets Society about more than just live poetry readings.
For instance, every month the group has a poetry contest with the rules being announced on the first Tuesday of the month. On Oct. 6, Hudson informed the crowd of the new contest rules: to write a poem that must be titled or start with the line “PS—Pensacola.”
The contests are sponsored by Open Books, a non-profit, volunteer-run bookstore here in Pensacola. The winner each month receives a certificate for a free book.
This month’s contest was all part of a creative process leading up to the group’s one-year anniversary on Dec. 15, where, among other acts in celebration, they plan to release their published book titled “PS—Pensacola” which will feature poems from the group. Proceeds from the book sales will go to Open Books.
And in keeping with making the group about more than just poetry, near the end of the readings on Oct. 6, there was also a brief discussion of Victor Demarius Steen, 17, who was recently killed after being struck by a police cruiser outside of Sluggo’s. Details of a vigil to remember Steen were announced by a few members of the group who were also involved in the planning.
Hudson’s group has definitely carved a niche for itself, not only in the local poetry scene, but in the community at large. People seem to attend the readings to be a part of something bigger than themselves, while also exchanging art and ideas through friendship and poems.
“It’s a great social event,” said Stijl Calhoun, 18, who was instrumental in helping Hudson get the group off the ground after Gartman died. “[I come here because] I like hearing what my friends have to say. There’ are a lot of great lines here; they know what they want to say and they say it.”
“I’ve met a lot of really important figures in my life through this group,” said Hudson. “A lot of my favorite poets I’ve met because of this.”
“This is the nucleus of how we learn to know who each other are,” said Hull, “by expressing ourselves through this thing called poetry.”
Tuesday night, Oct. 6, ended with Hudson on stage as he read a poem of his own, a piece celebrating individuality that featured the line, “similarity is the best path to invisibility.”
The New Poets Society is in no danger of such a fate, because when this diverse group meets each Tuesday night inside the End of the Line Café, no one is invisible.