I was going through old photographs I keep in a Dobbs Bowler hatbox (the bowler, alas, long ago missing), and I found one of myself sitting on the ground outside the Green Door on Carolina Lane, a poetry notebook open in my lap, a pepsi by my foot. I'm wearing black jeans, white t-shirt, black velvet vest. Somewhere, there's a cigarette burning but I hid it from the camera. I was so hard core back then, such the poet. My long hair is unbrushed but clean. Sometimes a girl's hair sums her up completely. That was me in the moments before one of what seems like a hundred performances in the amazing Green Door, home to the early 90's Asheville poetry scene. Lately, we here in the Wordplay studio have been talking about "those days." What they were like, who was involved, what we did. First, it's impossible to imagine the poetry scene without that darn green door on the lane. Allan Wolf began the poetry slam there. Bob Falls, Bob Mills, Glenis Redmond, Christine Lassiter, Jim Nave, myself--we all took our turns at the standing mic on the concrete stage. And slowly a movement grew around the words. Pat Storm beat me in the only slam I did (it was something called a skydive slam or something--the poems could only be one minute or shorter in length. I did Jas H. Duke's "Productivity:" "Wool grows just as fast on a lazy sheep." Pat ran out after I was finished and shouted something nobody understood then dove onto the ground spraying all of us with fake blood. So, he won. That's the kind of evenings we had.
My favorite piece of our history as poets in this town has nothing to do with poetry at all, though. I think it was in 1994, we approached John Cram of Blue Spiral and asked if we could help turn the Fine Arts (meaning porn) Theatre into a Fine Arts (meaning independent cinema) Theatre. He agreed to match our labor and then continue with the project. The next thing we knew, we were there at the Fine Arts in virtual hazmat suits and goggles tearing the place apart, pulling the red velvet in long skeins from the walls. The building itself was a history lesson.There was a door behind the box office which had been the Black entrance under Jim Crow. The upstairs theatre had been the area where only African Americans sat, and there was glass separating it from the open air. Now, when I watch a film upstairs I can't help but consider what this space once represented. Anyway, John held up his end of the bargain and the poets held up theirs and the theatre we enjoy today is the result of that partnership.
Christine Lassiter and Pat Storm are no longer with us. But Allan Wolf, Jim Nave, Bob Falls, Glenis Redmond, myself, and countless others, continue to move in the written world. And I feel of late that some new energy is rising for poetry in Asheville. A whole new kind of thing. . . .