CD spreads the word of Baltimore's poets Recording: Art and technology come together with the reading of 56 poems on "Word Up Baltimore."

November 20, 1997|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

The poetry is bluesy as the moaning from someone who's been done wrong. The poetry is straight as your elderly auntie who keeps faded doilies on end tables and the sofa wrapped in sticky plastic. The poetry is jazzy like sweet notes from a musician's saxophone that cause your head to do that Ray Charles bob. And it's fun like the whack of a bat knocking a ball out of the park, scoring big for our side.

Blair Ewing calls it "Word Up Baltimore," and it's a CD featuring 56 diverse poems from local poets. It's mostly his baby. His dream. His project d'amour. He wants you to know something else. It's his money that got this thing out.

From Ewing's CD liner notes: "No grant money whatsoever went into the production of this CD. None of your precious tax dollars were used." So there.

"I've had the idea to do something like this for many years," says Ewing, who produced the CD. A project of the Maryland Poetry Review, it was co-produced with his wife, Mary Ewing.

It was Rosemary Klein, editor of the Maryland Poetry Review and an associate professor of English at Dundalk Community College, who convinced Ewing the idea could become a reality.

"We did the 10th anniversary issue of the Maryland Poetry Review last year. And we had a meeting and asked what everyone would do if we had a wish list. Blair said, 'What about a CD?' " That was one year ago.

Klein loved the idea of marrying CD technology with an art form that has been around for centuries. "There has never been anything like it," Klein says. "It includes poets of all kinds. Young, old, academic and free verse. When we got together for the picture, I had never seen such an incredible, diverse group of poets in one place."

Ewing says he wanted to do it as a tribute to all the Baltimore-area poets who don't get their due because they exist in the shadows of Washington and New York. He did it, he says, as a way to say happy 200th birthday to Baltimore. But the CD is really Ewing's love letter to his deceased mother, Barbara T. Ewing.

Ewing, a political scientist by training who is a contributing editor to the Maryland Poetry Review, used money from his mother's estate to produce the poetry CD. "My mother was an artist and a poet as well. I did this to honor her," he says.

The poets on the CD range from former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand to Johns Hopkins University student Julie Scharper. Many of the poems have a Baltimore or Maryland theme.

Barbara DeCesare is a 26-year-old single mom of three, a full-time account executive and a poet on the CD. "I've been writing since I was a kid," says DeCesare, who will read her poem at tonight's CD launch party at Westminster Hall.

DeCesare, who writes whenever she can squeeze the time in and has been published in The Pearl, started reading her poems at small cafes and restaurants in 1994. "It's a necessity for me," she says of her writing. "And I am really proud to be a part of the CD."

Strand, who has won many awards for his work, says he hopes everyone will buy the CD, not just the poetically inclined. "It's about a part of the life in Maryland," says Strand. "I hope Marylanders will be especially interested to know what goes on underneath the surface."

"I've been involved in the poetry scene for over 20 years," says David Beaudouin, founder and editor of the Tropos Press. Back in the early 1980s, there was an anthology of local poets called "Gathering Voices," he says.

"This CD is the next logical step. It gives people the opportunity to hear the old guys and some of the younger poets," says the 46-year-old Beaudouin, who will read his poetry tonight.

There is also one deceased poet on the CD -- Elliott Coleman, who established the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars in the 1940s.

A lot of credit for including a poem by Coleman goes to Ewing, who did his research, Beaudouin says. "He found an early recording of Elliott Coleman reading his work and got permission to use it."

Ewing says it was no easy task selecting the poets on the CD because of the Baltimore area's large literary scene.

"I knew some of the people I wanted. And then I solicited opinions from other people," he says. "I collected a big list of about 150 and then started to whittle it down. Now, how do I say this? I don't want to sound politically incorrect, but I did not want it to be just your standard 'white bread' type of poet. I have people in their 80s and people in their teens. It's a great range of voices."

'Word Up Baltimore'

What: Launch party for the "Word Up Baltimore" poetry CD

When: 8-11 tonight

Where: Westminster Hall, Fayette and Greene streets

Admission: $4

Call: 410-285-9877

The CD: "Word Up Baltimore" retails for $11.97 and will be available starting tomorrow at Louie's The Bookstore Cafe, Bibelot and Borders in Columbia. It can also be ordered by sending $12.97 to Maryland Poetry Review, Drawer H, Baltimore, Md. 21228.

Sundial: To hear excerpts from "Word Up Baltimore," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the code 6136. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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