This past Saturday, I ventured out to the North Side to attend City of Asylum Pittsburgh‘s free Jazz Poetry concert. Normally, the event is held outside near their headquarters on Sampsonia Way, but rain required that the concert move into the New Hazlett Theater. The theater, which seats 600-700, had standing room only inside and the concert was being fed into the lobby on TV monitors as well. The volunteer who led myself and a friend into the theater was enthusiastic and helped us find the best place to stand to view the concert.
The atmosphere was positive and everyone was having a great time. I arrived a bit late and at point where the Oliver Lake Steel Quartet was performing alone without poetry. However, the readings came soon after. The readings included one really interested piece about translation and the role of the translating. Showing how the experience of a poem in a foreign language can change depending on how it is consumed, the performance spanned from the poem read in its original language with a text translation projected to the poem projected in its original language accompanied by illustrative guitar music.
My favorite part of the night was listening to poet Patricia Smith perform a poem that she (I believe) wrote specifically for the occasion about the Oliver Lake Steel Quartet who performed throughout the night. Her poetry was so humorous and honest and the joy she found in her art was infectious.
In the end, the Jazz Poetry Event was a great reminder of why I love poetry and the feeling of connection I value and receive from reading poetry, as well as seeing it performed or recited. It was great to be surrounded by such a large crowd of people of all different genders, races, and ages also enthusiastic about the poetry being performed.