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Beverly's traveling poetry tour performance another success

Posted by Terri Ogan  February 12, 2013 05:07 PM

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Colleen Michaels-Improbable Places Poetry Tour.jpg
Improbable Poetry Tour leader Colleen at last Thursday's performance at Waters and Brown Paint and Decorating store.

The Improbable Places Poetry Tour painted Beverly red and blue last week as it hit a local paint store for its 12th performance. Color was the theme.

The performance drew a crowd of nearly 70 people of all ages and occupations to Waters and Brown Paint and Decorating store on Elliot Street last Thursday evening. The tour had 29 poems, read by 29 poets from Beverly, Boston and beyond. The audience included people who were attending their first poetry reading, and others who were writing their fourth book.

This event garnered an all-time-high of 50 poem submissions and tour leader, Colleen Michaels, said she had a difficulty choosing which should be included.

“It was a full house,” said Michaels, the director of the writing studio at Montserrat College of Art. “People were standing. It was wonderful.”

There were two spotlight colors at last week’s performance: red and blue. But red poems didn’t speak directly about the color. They were bold, brassy and full of energy, where as the blue poems were quiet, slow and had a simmering sound, Michaels added.

“Color is such an open prompt that people can play with,” Michaels said. “But with this one…I had to see how the poems talked to one another and see what the story was for the evening. The form fit the content.”

This performance was not quite like the rest. Michaels said she typically likes to keep the readings up to one hour and fifteen minutes. Because there were so many authors, she had to alter their introductions, which normally takes up a majority of the performance.

This time around, Michaels and the authors turned the bios into a fabric swatch that were displayed in the paint store. That way, attendees were able to walk around and read about the poets, rather than listen to their stories of how they arrived at Waters and Brown Paint and Decorating Store.

January Gil O’Neil, executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, performed a blue poem that had a tinge of sadness, leaning towards melancholy.

“Since the theme was color it brought together a lot of different things that happened in my life a few weeks ago,” O’Neil said. “Thinking about paint and color for a writer it’s a challenge to come up with a specific poem for a specific occasion.”

Two or three years ago O’Neil got divorced. Since then she has never done anything to her home. Just a few weeks ago she repainted a wall in her dining room Patriots’ Blue. Taking that step was empowering, she said, and she put that right into her poem, “A new coat of paint on an old life.”

“It all comes from the heart,” O’Neil said. “We put our passions into what we do. The nice part is that people come out for this. People look forward to it. You can bring kids. It’s in a local business. One of my favorites was at the Roller Palace in Beverly.”

The tour's next stop is still undetermined, but Michaels has her eyes set on a metalsmithing shop or a beauty parlor.

“I like the way it brings people together in the community,” Michaels said. “That’s the goal for me.”

Terri Ogan can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter.

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