When Larry Levy, a retired Delta College instructor, was at a friend’s get together, he heard something that really stuck with him.
“A quite well-educated adult said she never enjoyed poetry, that she couldn’t get into it,” Levy says. “I said, ‘well, maybe you’ve been reading the wrong poetry. Maybe there are still poems out there, that if you give them a chance, you might find something really valuable there.’”
Cheryl & Larry Levy are hosting Midland Reads Poetry.
She didn’t seem to be persuaded, and that’s when the idea came for Larry and his wife, Cheryl, to host a poetry event in Midland. Today, it’s known as the Midland Reads Poetry event. It will be held this year on Sunday, April 24, from 2pm to 4pm at Creative 360
“We put out a notice through Creative 360’s webpage, and called people around town. We were able to get about 18-20 people to get together on an April Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours,” Levy says. “Each person got up, introduced him/herself, and said a few words about why they chose the poem they did, and then read it.”
At the end of the first session, Levy asked the audience how they felt about the event, if they enjoyed it, and if they should host it again. They received a resounding ‘yes,’ and the event has been an annual gathering ever since.
We kept doing it even during the pandemic, we did a Zoom version of it,” Levy says. “We were able to attract some people on Zoom who were far away from Midland, some who wanted to be part of the audience, and some who wanted to read.”
This year, the Midland Reads Poetry event
features an in-person gathering, with nearly 18 readers signed up. Levy says the event provides an opportunity for veteran poets as well as first-time writers and readers, too. He adds that a similar event had been held at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library by a local poet until about five or six years ago.
“There has always been a great variety of poems,” he says. “I never know what people are going to select. Some people, who, when I first asked them, declined and didn’t think they had what it took to get up and read a poem, later after attending, decided maybe they could get up and read a poem. They continue to participate to the point where now, some of those folks are reading poems they have written.”
Caity Quinn & Emma Massey.perform at Midland Reads Poetry.
Levy enjoys seeing the growth that poetry can provide for participants. “I think it’s really had an encouraging effect that poetry of all kinds can be moving, or funny in some cases, depending on what they read. It’s moved people to continue to come back, and in some cases, to try their own hand at poetry, which I think is the whole point of it.” Poets range from high school freshmen to retired teachers, chemical engineers, college counselors, and people of all ages and backgrounds.
“It kind of counteracts the idea I heard some years ago that poetry wasn’t there for everybody,” Levy says. “There’s such richness and variety in poetry. To make a statement that none of it is for you was really dismissing all of the possibilities there.”
The all-ages, free event welcomes donations to Creative 360. Refreshments will be provided. For Levy, the mission is to make poetry accessible and welcoming for everyone, even if they haven’t read or written it ever before. “It isn’t about necessarily going on and winning Pulitzer Prizes or anything like that, I just think you can learn an awful lot from reading poetry and attempting it. A life without poetry is missing something. That’s one of the reasons Cheryl and I do it, and we’re looking forward to it.”