Red Sky Poetry Theater

It’s odd how death makes us pause and reconsider our own lives. When my Father died, I got the hunch within a week or so to look at our bloodline and traced his maternal line to England in 1450. My Mother-in-Law pointed out that means I have the gene that survived the black plague in Europe, something I intuited when I wrote the lines:

And you got that

survival like a lifetime
of clenched teeth and a way
out of wilderness via helicopters
over the canyon and a tuning

of fix that fire into a mode
where somehow there’s a Gracias
in all of your grief.

And the death of Marion Kimes in March has rekindled interest in Red Sky Poetry Theater. Described as “The longest continuously-running poetry open mic on the West Coast,” it  ran for 25 years and Marion was the force that kept it alive for much of that time. I suspect she had a love for the connection with people, with poets, it provided, its depth and suffer-no-fools approach to writing and art in general, as well as its openness and the community that flourished for many years around it. An open mic with a featured poet (or two) it ran from 1980 to 2005 at many venues in Seattle and was for a long time, the soul of the literary community here.

Tom Prince is another Chicago hand like me who was a Red Sky regular and is doing a lot of research into what Red Sky was, first for a Wikipedia entry and perhaps for a documentary.

Trudy Mercer is a former Red Sky Board Member who has a treasure trove of old flyers and is posting them to her Facebook page.

Trudy Mercer Red Sky Gallery

For me Red Sky was my poetry schooling, having come to the practice of writing poetry later in life. After 1995, I attended the weekly Red Sky sessions regularly, investing a lot of energy into what I would read on any particular Sunday and often hanging out after the reading and talking about writing. I attended the last session conducted at the Ditto Tavern and was a regular at the Globe Cafe at 14th & Pine, eventually becoming a Board member and regular emcee. It was a achievement when I was awarded my first feature at Red Sky and seeing how a true collective really works to create something that is open, yet demanding of participants has really served as a model for me.

A memorial for Marion Kimes will be held Sunday, July 27, 2014, at the Spring Street Center, 1101 15th at 15th & Spring, from 2-5PM. More Red Sky stories will be told and maybe there’ll be talk about another Red Sky Reunion. Seattle needs an open mic that continues the spirit of Red Sky, which was more than an open mic. It was an actual poetry reading.

Red Sky Reunion Flyer

Feb Red Sky Flyer (1999?)

March Flyer (1998?)

March Red Sky Flyer (1999)

April Red Sky Flyer (1999)

May Red Sky Flyer (1999)

Oct Red Sky Flyer (1999)

Dec Red Sky Flyer (1999)

FEB Red Sky Flyer (2000)

APR Red Sky Flyer (2000)

Red Sky Flyer (2000s?)

Red Sky 2008 & 2009 Reunion Flyer

About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB in Seattle and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. He wrote a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger.) He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets, has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois and other places & writes an American Sentence every day.
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8 Responses to Red Sky Poetry Theater

  1. kristin says:

    Wouldn’t any of us with European ancestry be the descendents of those who survived the black death? Even if we can’t trace them back so far as to know their names.

    Great to have all those flyers. I lament the loss of ours. Would love to be there for the poetry if I weren’t here on the east coast in Atlanta.

  2. Buffy says:

    This is just so fascinating! Although the plague was devastating to many populations, contrary to popular myth, the whole of Europe was not affected by the plague. Not all Europeans are descended from plague survivors because not all were exposed. Actually, the mutated gene CCR5, delta 32, is primarily present in the direct descendants of areas of Europe that were resettled by survivors of the plague. Paul’s family appears to have descended directly from one of these areas resettled by plague survivors. There is a high probability that he carries the gene. However, we have not yet subjected Paul to testing for the gene. The plague survivor gene does not exist in any populations other than those mentioned here, and many Europeans do not possess this gene, nor do Native Americans, Asians, or East Indian populations. There is a cluster of this gene around Prague, where the infamous Church of Bones can be seen, built with the bones of plague victims.

  3. Buffy says:

    Well, it’s so much more dramatic for historians to use phrases such as “the plague swept through Europe,” right? It conjures the image of a giant plague-broom touching all who resided there. Nevertheless, It has been an excellent inspiration for novelists and poets. It WAS devastating; and yet, not to every population of Europe. Even more fascinating is that the plague also existed in India, yet there seems to be no mutated gene-related resistance there.

  4. Buffy says:

    Tasty. This area of research into pandemics and the shifting assumptions and potential collaborations between historians and scientists is simply delicious and has amazing implications. Thanks, Kristin.

  5. hg says:

    And just think: now that we travel so freely and extensively, what chance would there be of such a disease remaining so relatively isolated?

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