The final program of the long-running Poetry on the Loose Reading/Performance Series will be presented on Saturday, December 6 at the Seligmann Center, 23 White Oak Drive, Sugar Loaf NY at 3:30. The featured reader will be William Seaton as it was in the series’ first show twenty-one years ago. Apart from this special event, in about three hundred shows, no poet has ever appeared twice.
When Seaton moved to Orange County he had already been active in poetry and performance for decades, participating in what were called happenings at the University of Illinois in the sixties, working with the Cloud House group doing street readings and guerilla poetry events in San Francisco during the seventies, and producing the Poetry in the Air cable television program Iowa City in the eighties. Finding virtually no public literary scene in Orange County, he began Poetry on the Loose in December of 1993 at the Zukabee Gallery in an old furniture factory on Mill Street in Middletown. Posting signs around town as publicity, he attracted over fifty people to the first reading.
That night he greeted the audience, saying, “Welcome to Poetry on the Loose. This is poetry off the printed page, out of the library and the classroom, poetry in the air.” Anecdotes of that early period are posted on his blog at http://williamseaton.blogspot.com/2011/09/poetry-on-loose.html. Since then the readings have moved several times, for several years to Warwick and then to the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf.
The original concept was to emphasize multi-media, experimental, and performance-based work, and indeed, poets have included dance, music, and theatrical elements with their words, though readers have frequently presented their work conventionally from behind a lectern. Over the years a great many local poets have been featured as well as visiting writers from across the country and abroad. In accordance with the series slogan “The door is open wide,” readers have included men and women, gay and straight, old and young, dropouts and university professors, composers of free verse and of sonnets.
In Seaton’s words, “A reading offers an opportunity for neighbors to share their visions, wit, rants, and lyric moments face to face in an uncommodified setting. The excitement, refreshment, and enlightenment audiences experience is a far cry from the robotized sensation that arises after watching television. I don’t mind ending the series now because there are dozens of other poetry venues all through the Hudson Valley. As I said in the introduction to our short-lived journal The Wawayanda Review, ‘May the rose bloom and the thistle and the orchid and the dandelion, too!’”
Seaton intends to read at other sites and continues to work with the Seligmann Center where he will offer his fifth Surreal Cabaret (co-produced with Steve Roe), an evening of performance art, on January 3. He maintains a blog at williamseaton.blogspot.com.