With so little new poetry being published, it can be hard for a poet to reach an audience. Station to Station, a six-person collective of black poets in Washington, found another way to bring its work to the public.
"Performance is an alternative and is as valid as being published," says Garth Tate, a member of the collective and executive producer of "Den of Desires," the collective's theatrical-poetic event currently being performed Thursdays through Saturdays through July 31 at the Last Hurrah Supper Club, 1415 22 St. NW.
Station to Station began with its members getting together to read their work to each other. "We were critiquing our work, and we decided why not present it," said Tate. "We didn't want to just stand at a podium and read, like most poets, so we opted for performance. It's another dimension." There is also a historical reason, Tate says: "Poetry is part of the ceremonies and oral histories of Africa."
"Den of Desires" is a two-act sampler of 37 of the group's poems performed by a troupe of seven black actors. Collective member Gideon Ferebee has cleverly staged the evening against a backdrop of an American flag. The evening begins with the company dressed in white robes making a ritualistic entrance, chanting; during the course of the performance, they change to street clothes and then military regalia. The poetry is chanted, played in scenes and sometimes simply recited. The poems' themes run from politics and economics and racism to sex and love. They all have a distinctly Afro-American flavor.
That is intentional, says Tate. "What we want to accomplish is to establish an audience for black American poetry."