By James Bishop, Jr.
(March 15, 2019)
Spring is breaking out here, there and everywhere. Birds are arriving, daffodils are breaking ground and something else is returning too: The Poetry and Prose Project based in The Sedona Public Library, now in its ninth year, is offering poems, authors, singers, plays, and in short offering confirmation that Sedona, despite great changes, remains a town animated by the arts
Who is behind all this? According to Gary Every, author, naturist, hiker, scholar, teacher, “I don’t have a title, it’s the audiences. We have succeeded in our main goal which is creating a community through art…we design shows so that afterwards the audience has a chance to mingle with the authors…many members of our audience look forward each month not only because they are lovers of literature but because they look forward to seeing each other.” Others give him credit amidst all sorts of work of his own, ranging from inviting the authors, to hosting shows. Says he, “People trust me to keep things worthwhile. Sometimes I find this very humbling.”
Watching all the preparation for this year’s first show at the Sedona Public Library on Friday, March 29th at 5:00 pm—the invites, press releases, proper electric hook ups –reminds one of observing the master of a three-ring circus assembling seemingly endless details and knowing that forgetting one could threaten the entire show. Sometimes Gary’s head is buzzing with so many ideas for the next show and details about the latest book he is writing that he craves going out to the wilds, into the secret caves, or the solace of camping by a river, but not for long. To be sure, there were those who doubted the project’s future, yet now more and more people show up, and would-be performers celebrate the fact that audiences actually listen. As time goes by well-known talent appeared such as Albert Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate and playwright Mary Heyborne along with new talent and those who have never performed before but are on the edge of emerging.
A long way has Poetry and Prose come in nine years from its beginnings in a Cottonwood bookstore called Ageless Pages. Some of the first few shows highlighted local authors combined with a few people Gary had known previously along with some very talented young people. Later, in Sedona, they performed at a stone building near Oak Creek and called it the Pump House Poetry and Prose Project. Says Gary, “I love alliteration. This was all about nine years ago and now we meet at the library and it will be our third year at the library. In the first few years, our crowds were like 14 to 18 people. Then their crowds got bigger. Sometimes we would do theater shows; we would have like 80 to 90 people there! “
Nowadays, Gary that finds himself, “quite surprised when so many people show up. The one thing I know is that if I ever stop being of service to authors and my audience, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards. As for now, we will have a wonderful season ahead.”
One worry for him is the fate of Sedona itself! Is it becoming a place of exclusive part-time residences, in which working people will no longer be able to live?
By James Bishop with Karen Walker