A little over a decade ago Robert Fanning walked into ArtReach in downtown Mt. Pleasant and asked a simple question: “Have you considered holding poetry readings?”
The professor had recently moved to Mt. Pleasant and delighted in exploring his new hometown. He’d been recruited by Central Michigan University for his passion, and it was that same passion and connection to the Michigan literary scene that made him the perfect person to spearhead a series of readings. In fact, it turns out ArtReach had been considering ways to add poetry to their artistic offerings for some time, but didn’t have anyone to organize the events. With Fanning’s energy at the helm, it was suddenly a more realistic endeavor, and its success since has outpaced everyone’s expectations.
Last month the Wellspring Literary Series kicked off its tenth season with a full house. Fanning says the turnout is a testament to the city. “When you have close to one-hundred people coming to readings, that’s evidence of a small town with heart.” Their diversity is a testament to Fanning’s vision of art for all.
Poet Marc Hudson read a selection of his work to a full house last month at the Wellspring Literary Series tenth season kickoff
In larger cities readings by all but the most prominent poets usually draw smaller crowds than those who turn up in ArtReach’s beautifully lit event space for Wellspring, and rarely is there a pair of camo crocs among them. In Mt. Pleasant however, Fanning has made a concerted effort to make sure his readings are open and accessible to all and the audience on any given night reflects his work.
At this year’s opening event on October 1, poet Marc Hudson of Crawfordsville, IN, read to the polished older couple who quietly sipped hot beverages, the young boy behind them who balanced a thick book in his lap, the man across the aisle who silently bounced his camo crocs under his seat, the college students in athletic garb at the back of the room, and their varied counterparts in the seats in-between alike.
Next Monday, November 12, another crowd will assemble. To the naked eye, they’ll probably look like they don’t quite belong together too, but in this room behind the tall sparkling glass that faces Broadway street everyone is connected, and that’s the point. “Poetry is musical,” says Fanning, “It keeps us communicating with people in a time when we aren’t.”
Hudson was a rare addition to Wellspring, one of only two poets who haven’t been Michigan residents. Kim D. Hunter from Detroit will headline Monday’s reading. As with past events, he’ll be joined by a student reader and a musical act. Max and Emily’s will provide complimentary finger food and drinks.
Each Wellspring Literary event includes a musical performance
In the beginning, Fanning tried to hold a reading every month throughout the college year, but in recent seasons he’s pared the lineup back to just four events. The reading on Monday will be the second this fall. Two more will follow in March and April. The final event of the season on April 15, 2019 will feature Fanning’s own CMU faculty band, Daryl and the Beans, and might have to be held at a different venue to accommodate the large crowd Fanning anticipates. “I think the students are surprised that we aren’t that bad,” jokes Fanning. Darrin Doyle, whose students often mistakenly call him Daryl, and Jeffrey Bean round out the group.
The Wellspring Literary Series is funded by a grant from the Russ Herron Fund at the Mt. Pleasant Community Fund and is free to attend. For more information and the full series schedule, including archived lineups, visit the Wellspring Literary website.