Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fairy Tale Night in Missouri

How does Cinderella begin to describe her trip to the ball? Just in from Jefferson City and once again wearing my scullery maid hat, I feel like last night was unreal. I attended the Voices and Verses program sponsored by First Lady Georgeanne Nixon in support of the arts. Six student choirs and several poet laureates sang and read in the rotunda of our state capitol. What made this particular year special was poetry from Storm Country was used.

The choirs all sang music based on work from Missouri poets such as Langston Hughes and Sara Teasdale. State Music laureate Susan LaBarr took Bill Cairns poem from Storm Country and wrote new music. Then the Joplin Choir had the honor of singing the song for the first time with all the other choirs joining in at the chorus. David Benz is the Artistic Director of the Voices and Verses project and also director of the Western Missouri State University Chorale. He had seventeen family members in the Joplin tornado.

                            Poet Laureate, David Clewell with Artistic Director, David Benz

Yours Truly was steppin’ in tall cotton as they say when I read my poem "Weather Tantrum" with these people. Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg had to cancel at the last minute due to illness, and Missouri Writing Guild president Deborah Marshall stepped in to read the poem for her.

Joplin Writers' Guild President, Claudia Mundell and Missouri Writers' Guild President, Deborah Marshall
                                                                                                                Mundell and Benz

Mrs. Nixon opened the program and then songs were sung using words penned by such Missouri Poets as Langston Hughes, Sara Teasdale, and Eugene Field. Poems published in Storm Country were read by their authors, and the program drew to a close with Bill Cairns reading his poem “My Foundation” that became the musical piece ”Storm Country”. Then Joplin Choir began to sing and by the time the remaining choirs joined in with the chorus, it was hard to hold tears back. Some students were misty-eyed, and Deb and I had trouble holding our own tears back. The combination of music, words, and voices gave a mystical quality to the rotunda as various visions of Joplin filled minds and evoked emotions in hearts. No one was left unmoved.

                       Joplin Choir sings "Storm Country" directed by Eric Eichenberger

                                            Missouri Capitol on a spring Voices and Verses Night

It was one beautiful night with a bit of a fairy tale nature. The balmy air blanketed us all with a warmth and tenderness inspired by gratitude and appreciation of both music and poetry that spread among the participants and the audience alike.

Weather Tantrum
Thick clouds and wispy air wrestle in the heavy ceiling overhead.
On the ground, men with bald spots covered by brand name ball caps
Stop work, form a cautious audience gazing upwards.
Mothers call in heedless children and become vigilant sentries,
Knotted shoulders leaning against white porch posts.

Pushing and shoving, clouds twist and entwine until
A cone, curled as a wire bed spring,
Drops down like a ballet dancer’s pointed toe
Reaching for solid ground to stand on.
Suddenly, swaying trees cease in awe struck silence
Just as sirens scream warnings of a twister.
Roofs rumble down the street turning cartwheels;
Fence posts bow down to the cruel coil.
Then after a quick assault, turmoil ceases. 
Churning clouds move on; the sky’s seizure is over.

Families, like rabbits from burrows, ease out of fraidy holes,
Scanning damage, measuring the weather’s wrath.
Slow, intermittent rain drops fall from a bruised sky
Moistening the earth in tearful apology.


BECKY said...

Oh my gosh, Claudia...this is absolutely breathtaking. No wonder it was chosen to be included in the anthology. Congratulations on that, and also for being chosen to take part in such a lovely evening!

Susan said...

WOW Claudia. That DID sound like a fairy tale night. Congratulations on being one of the people who made it happen. Thanks for sharing. Super photos, too! Susan

Linda O'Connell said...

Claudia, you should be so proud for planting the seed and watching this baby grow. Your poem is amazing! Wish I could have been there. Such an honor.

Lynn said...

Sounds like a truly lovely, touching event. Congrats.

Rebecca said...

Congratulations on your part in such an emotional & inspirational evening! What an honor to be selected to read your poem, Claudia! I'm proud to KNOW you.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Lovely poem, Claudia. Thank you so much for sharing hit here. Congratulations on a successful evening!

Martha said...

Sounds like a perfect evening! I would have so liked to be there. thanks for sharing the lovely poem!

irishoma said...

Hi Claudia,
How wonderful for you. It does sound like a Cinderella evening. Your poem is lovely, and I'm glad you got the recognition you deserve for your fabulous idea for an anthology to support the Joplin libraries.
You are inspiring!