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Scorchin' the Porch

Local poets take the stage...or porch.

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The woman's enraged face peeked over the microphone as she described a creepy old man and the sexual advances he had made toward her. Expletives were not deleted.

Christina Springer, a featured poet at the Tremont Poetry Porch, had warned the audience about the graphic nature of her work before proceeding with lines awash in emotion, anger, and vulgarity. The unstructured stream-of-consciousness of the poems mirrored the pace and style of the June 11 reading put on by Blayne Hoerner, who has been staging these events since last summer.

The idea for the Poetry Porch came to Hoerner, a poet herself (with stage fright), after she offered her house as a central rehearsal location for the 1998 Cleveland Poetry Slam Team. She quickly realized her porch would make a great stage. "I asked my landlord, and he was cool with it, and my upstairs neighbor even lent me a microphone," she says. The Poetry Porch premiered last July and continued with monthly readings in August and September; about fifty people turned out each time.

Hoerner, who has publicized the porch with fliers around local college campuses and at other poetry events, never expected the readings to be a success. "It was just a wacky idea that I followed through with," she says.

But the seasonal events give writers a nontraditional place to vent and share their words with a nomadic audience of passersby hesitating in the driveway and motorists slowing down to catch a few lines. Then there are those devotees who plunk down lawn chairs and blankets in the yard.

The June 11 reading was the first one of the season. The porch itself, cozy and Christmas-lighted, was witness to as many different poetic subjects as poets. Michael Salinger poeticized about old automobiles and carburetors. Terry, an open mic participant, evoked laughter by adapting "The Star Spangled Banner" to sarcastically sing the praises of Monica Lewinsky.

Even Christina Springer's sixth-grade daughter, Imani, got into the act. She stood politely at the microphone, smiled broadly, and delivered poems about crushes on boys at school and questions about why adults act the way they do. Her demure demeanor offered a sharp contrast to her mother's poetic venting, which was just more proof that Blayne Hoerner's porch is big enough to hold all kinds of poetic styles. — Lisa Foster

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