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SUNDAY, MARCH 22, 2015 Call Ivy Moore at: (803) 774-1221 | E-mail: ivy@theitem.com

‘How Sweet the Sound’ Coffeehouse presents open mic poetry series BY IVY MOORE ivy@theitem.com

M

ost days the Coffee Palace on Lafayette Boule-

vard is a coffee shop and café; but on the evenings of the fourth Thursday of each month, it becomes a coffeehouse, featuring both accomplished and aspiring poets reading and performing their works. “We call it ‘How Sweet the Sound,’” said Len Lawson, who started the event. Lawson is a writer and an English professor at Morris College who hopes to attract both experienced and aspiring poets, prose writers and musicians to How Sweet the Sound and to a similar event at Central Carolina Technical College on the third Wednesday of the month. Non-writing audience members are also welcome. With the enthusiastic cooperation of Coffee Palace manager Rebekka Taylor, who writes poetry herself, the venue’s monthly transformation offers live music in addition to what Lawson calls “page poets” and “stage poets,” the difference being that page poets read their works, while stage poets memorize and “perform” what they’ve created. Some spoken word artists even create “on the spot.” Taylor, who plans to read at Thursday’s open mic session, said the February coffeehouse “went very well.” Lawson agreed, adding that the attendance was very good, especially considering “we had been warned of a ‘wintry mix’ that night.” He thinks there are many people who write and want to share their poetry, but “who are a little intimidated by an audience.” To them, he says How Sweet the Sound is a comfortable way to do so. “I think a lot of people write poetry and keep it hidden because they don’t think it’s good,” Lawson said. “It needs to be heard so you can get a different take on it. It can be like therapy — when you write about issues, it helps you work through

IVY MOORE/THE SUMTER ITEM

ABOVE: Len Lawson, a writer and an English instructor at Morris College, has begun a monthly series of poetry readings called “How Sweet the Sound” with Rebekka Taylor, manager of the Coffee Palace on Lafayette Boulevard. She is at left rear, talking with a customer. The events, open to the public, are held on the fourth Thursday of each month. BELOW: Cedric Tillman reads from his volume of poetry titled “Lilies in the Valley” Wednesday evening during the monthly poetry reading at Central Carolina Technical College. The program coordinated by Len Lawson and Austin Floyd is open to the public. It is held at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the college’s student center. (Photo provided) them. Writing helps everything.” Subjects for the poets at How Sweet the Sound vary. “One person wrote a prayer and read it as a poem,” Lawson said. “Life in the South, growing up in Sumter, nature, current news, racial issues, religion are some of the topics people write about. Whatever the poet wants to read is acceptable. If there’s a poem by a favorite poet, that’s OK, too.” The readings provide a good opportunity to get gentle, constructive criticism from fellow writers who are also eager for comments on their work. “It’s not intimidating at all,” Lawson said. “The atmosphere is very friendly.” Taylor said she has been writing poetry for years but has not shared it previously. After witnessing the inaugural event, she’s feeling more comfortable about reading her work. “Len has encouraged me to share it,” she said. “I usually

write about my grandmother, so I’ll be reading one about her next week.” Lawson emphasized that the atmosphere at the event is family friendly and that poets of any age are welcome. His own venture into sharing his writings began when he was much younger. He’s been in love with words and writing since middle school, when he won third place in an Arbor Day poetry contest, he said. In high school, he got an honorable mention for an essay on the American flag. He hasn’t stopped writing since. Lawson has been writing poetry and short stories and has begun a novel series. He has a master of arts degree in English from National University in San Diego. He teaches grammar, composition and literature at Morris College, where he was named the 2012-13 Professor of the Year. When he is not writing, he is a freelance editor and a guest contributor to local newspapers. As a published writer and a

member of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, Lawson has met many S.C. writers, and he’s invited several to share their work during the local poetry nights. Last Wednesday at CCTC, Cedric Tillman read several of his poems. A Charlotte resident, he is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the American University Creative Writing master of fine arts program. A Cave Canem fellow, Tillman’s poems appear in several publications including “Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets From the Carolinas,” edited by Kwame Dawes. In 2013 his debut collection, titled “Lilies In The Valley,” was published by Willow Books. “We try to have people who have written books, who’ve been successful, at each event,” Lawson said.

SEE OPEN MIC, PAGE C3

Incumbents keep school board seats; P-15’s rich in pitchers 75 YEARS AGO – 1940 Aug. 13–19 H. L. Salisbury announced the opening of a new, thoroughly renovated and completely equipped studio. The new establishment will be known as “Colonial Studio” and will feature portrait work, copying and enlarging, Kodak finishing, and Yesteryear general in Sumter photoSAMMY WAY graphic work — all done by experienced finishers. The studio is located upstairs at 31 North Main St. • The library commission, of which Prof. J. Kilgo is president and Mrs. Minnie Benbow, secretary, announces the official opening of the Sumter Public Library and Reading Room at 44 Council St. This very splendid movement is sponsored by the Santee River Singers under the direction of Eva Jessye. This group has worked constantly for intellectual social and cultural development of the community

1940 -- More than 30 boys who deliver the Sumter Daily Item every day in Sumter and surrounding territory enjoyed a barbecue chicken supper at Cain’s Mill last night. The supper was given them because of outstanding circulation work during the last few months. since its organization some eight months ago. • The deer season opened today and several parties of Sumter hunters left at daybreak for drives in the Wateree and Santee River swamps. Reports on the results of the first day hunts had not been received early this afternoon. • While a partisan crowd of around 3,000 cheered him on, James Farmer, ace Sumter Le-

gion Junior pitcher, completely handcuffed the South Jacksonville team last night in the regional tournament in Spartanburg and led his mates to a sparkling 7 to 1 victory. Tonight Sumter will meet the DeKalb, Ga., team, which defeated Birmingham, Ala., yesterday afternoon. The winner of this final tilt will go to the sectional tournament in Rock Hill. • Monday morning the Sumter

High School football squad, around 50 strong, and headed by Coaches William Clark and Joseph Berry, will set forth for Burnt Gin Camp for a two-week period of training. Forty-seven boys have already signed up for the camp and one or two more are expected to go. The total cost of the two weeks outing is only $6 for each boy. Miss Ruth Altman of the high school faculty will be the dietician at the camp,

assuring the boys of plenty of the proper kind of food. • It is the hope of garden lovers that work will be resumed in the near future on the First Mill development of the enlarged Swan Lake Iris Gardens and that the plans will be carried to completion before next spring. Even when the landscaping and planting have been completed several years must elapse before the garden can grow into full beauty. • While the bouquets are being passed around to the Legion Juniors for the wonderful record they have made in advancing to the sectional finals, let’s not forget Assistant Coach Roscoe A. Riggins. Coach John Riley and Riggins have worked smoothly together to coach a world of credit. Several hundred fans will be with the team in Rock Hill tomorrow to see the Gamecocks humble Chicago. • There has been a noticeable lack of interest in the various races for county jobs this summer. The crowds that have attended the meetings so far apparently have been much more interested in the barbecue dinners that follow than in the speeches. Two more barbecues are scheduled. this week.

SEE YESTERYEAR, PAGE C3

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