Richard Blanco in Durham

Finding out that Richard Blanco was speaking for free in Durham at the Carolina Theater, I was shocked. Shocked that I was so out of touch with such cultural events that I stumbled across it in the free Durham News that hits my driveway every week. And even more shocked that the theater was packed!

I happily paid $50 to attend the reception so I could speak with him. When I sidled up, he was already talking about the similar states of music and poetry in the US now, and that he would like to see both return to more live interaction, like sitting around the campfire or in your living room. Not prepackaged technological media goods but a vital community expression of the personal and collective story. In his view, the role of an artist is to be a visionary, whose function is to persuade. A poetry reading is not a courtroom, yet still – scenes are set, stories are detailed, and one strives for the rousing finale that will leave those gathered convinced of the artistic truth just given voice, and pondering how they will let it resonate in their lives.

In his MFA program, having already received his engineering degree, Richard never recited a poem – it was always just read silently, or critiqued as a written document. I encountered the same attitude at NYU in graduate school for musicology – no need to hear or play music, just study the notation. What our world needs now are more occasions where people gather in the presence of their fellow expressive artists, who give voice to their creations in every mode they can think of – and giving all present an opportunity to respond in any way they feel moved: applause; dance; tears; or the sacred act of sitting in silence and receiving the heart and soul of their fellow citizen, shared openly.

I feel Blanco’s call to come out of my artistic closet – to not just commit my poems to ink and paper, and then upload to my blog, and share on Facebook. He is inspiring an attitude change! Find or call gatherings in my community where expression is live and fresh, and which solicits some sort of response from all attending. This is the impetus to launch the further evolvement of Players of Now – our first Expression Jam. Originally scheduled for November 14, we are postponing it into early 2014.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.