Stop. Pause. Breathe. Take a minute or two for poetry, that beautifully elusive form forgotten by pop culture and the mainstream, to receive attention from only enthusiasts and academia. Living in Ann Arbor, we might have an inflated sense of the popularity of poetry. Students study it, the Neutral Zone hosts poetry workshops for teens and the University brings in poets from around the world to recite their work.
One Pause Poetry: Fall Conference Reading
Friday at 7 p.m.
In 2010, a new organization appeared on the poetry scene in Ann Arbor: One Pause Poetry, a nonprofit arts organization working to make poetry accessible to all. They often organize poetry readings and workshops around Ann Arbor, in spaces that range from an active metallurgy workshop to an organic farm.
One Pause Poetry will host a reading at METAL with Matthew Rohrer Friday night, a faculty member of the Creative Writing Program at NYU, and Residential College Lecturer Ken Mikolowski. The combination isn’t happenstance — many years ago, Rohrer was Mikolowski’s student.
“Matt was always a good writer, but then he started discovering his own unique style, which is very funny and yet he is able to carry some emotion, too,” Mikolowski said. “There is enough going on in his poems that makes him complex and always interesting to read.”
The two have kept in contact since Rohrer graduated, but this will mark their first joint reading.
Rohrer won a Hopwood award for poetry at the University, and graduated from the Residential College in 1992. Shortly after graduating, he wrote his first published book of poetry, “A Hummock in the Malookas,” which won the National Poetry Series award.
“A Hummock in the Malookas” was Rohrer’s first published work, but not his first book. As a student in the RC’s Creative Writing major, Rohrer and his classmates worked closely with their professors for multiple semesters in courses called “tutorials.” Mikolowski, who supervises tutorials, has his students write a book before they graduate.
“You get to know someone pretty well doing class and tutorials because you share poetry, it’s pretty personal,” Mikolowski said. “The great thing about doing that is you get to watch someone grow and develop as they go along.”
During his time at the University, Rohrer developed his distinct writing style.
Mikolowski started writing poetry when he went to college at Wayne State University. He began college as an engineering student but a writing class caused him to change his mind.
“You should have seen the look on my father’s face when I told him I’m going to become a poet,” Mikolowski said.
Mikolowski has written three books of poetry, but he plans to read mostly from “That, That,” a book he is currently working on. The book has approximately 75 poems, and its longest poem is two lines.
“I keep getting briefer and briefer and briefer,” Mikolowski said. “Haikus are too long for me.”
Mikolowski became more economical with his wording after running the Alternative Press for thirty years. The press, which published poetry giants such as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley, was all hand-set and hand-printed.
“It was a letter press. You set the type one letter at a time,” Mikolowski said.
Mikolowski’s own poems shrunk in length because printing longer poems in the Alternative Press was such an intensive process.
As part of their mission to make poetry accessible to all, One Pause Poetry records these events.
“We record audio and video of all our programs and put them on our website so people can see them if they don’t get out to the event,” said Sarah Messer, the director of One Pause Poetry.
The organization hopes to work collaboratively with poetry groups around Ann Arbor to help the scene be more cohesive and grow.
“We really want to be a place with our website where different poetry groups can come together,” Messer said.