Monday, January 29, 2007

(LISA LOCKE_New Host of The Somerville News Poetry and Music Series)

Poetry and Music Series Now at Porter Square Books
By Lisa Locke
The Somerville News Poetry and Music Series, founded by Doug Holder, has found a new home at Porter Square Books, and will take place the first Sunday of every month from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. The series is intended to be a forum for poets and songwriters, especially those from the local area. Each event will feature one poet and one musician, followed by a one hour open mic, open to poets and musicians alike.

I started in November as the host of the series, which until recently was hosted by my friend and fellow singer/songwriter Chiemi. I am excited about the new location, and would like to thank Porter Square Books for generously offering us use of their space. The November 5th series demonstrated how ideal this space will be for a gathering of wordsmiths and word-lovers. Poetry feature Mike Amado and music feature James Christensen kicked off the series in its new location.

Mike Amado is a poet from Plymouth, MA. His poems are a mix of free verse and spoken word pieces, which he describes as "between poem and song." Amado is also a drummer, which comes through in the rhythmic, almost chanting quality of his reading.

He has sought out an artistic community in Somerville because of a lack of such events in Plymouth. He regularly meets with a group which calls itself the "Bagel Bards". Amado describes it as a "schmooze fest" for poets, taking place at the Davis Square Au Bon Pain Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 11:00 am. Amado said the group is open to all.

Amado has founded a fledgling poetry group in Plymouth, a combination of workshop and reading group to be held in a bookstore "Books and More." Five local poets have signed up so far. The purpose of the group, according to Amado, is "bringing like-minded people together… It’s going to be about encouragement and support." He hopes that it will fill a need in the area.

"There are a lot of hobby poets [in Plymouth] who are pretty good in their own right," said Amado.

Amado has been writing since he was 14, and published his first volume of verse in April 2006. "Poems Unearthed from Ashes" was published by Doorance Publishing in Pittsburgh. The book can be purchased online at, or at the Laughing Moon Boutique in Plymouth.

According to Amado, he is relatively new to the experience of being a featured poet. About his debut on the local poetry scene, he said cryptically, "The key has turned and slightly opened the door."

James Christensen is a singer/songwriter, currently living in Somerville. He has been writing songs for ten years, and performing his songs in Somerville and Cambridge venues since 2000. He says the "biggest step" for his music was becoming a regular at the Burren’s Tuesday night open mic in Davis Square. Christensen credits host Hugh McGowan who "makes everyone feel welcome" with fostering a sense of community among the open micers. He says at the Burren, "There’s always a full slate of people playing, there’s almost always a decent crowd, and a lot of people play there every week."

Most recently, Christensen has been a frequent feature at such venues as Sallie O’Brien’s, Tir na Nog, and the Lizard Lounge. He says that "Somerville in general is a great arts community," because of "the number of places that have live music either every night of the week or almost every night of the week, and it’s free. There are places you [as a musician] can play and make money. It’s friendly to musicians and it’s very friendly to music fans."

Although Christensen found playing in a "well-lit daytime venue" unfamiliar, he welcomed the opportunity to play at Porter Square Books. He said that in a bookstore there are, "a bunch of people walking around who probably don’t know who you are. They get a little bit of music in their afternoon, and you get exposed to people who would never have heard of you otherwise."
Christensen’s lyrically dense music was well suited to the quiet venue, where his words could be heard and appreciated. According to Christensen, his first writing was short stories. "Other writers commented that I was writing really skeletal little short stories, tiny little vignettes or slices of life," he said. Songwriting followed naturally once he learned to play the guitar. "It turns out that I feel pretty comfortable working in a genre that can fit on one page and either tells a story or can give a picture of someone’s life."

Christensen said that he hopes his audience will feel a connection to his work and draw parallels to their own lives. "Just about everybody on the planet has been disappointed or has had a really wonderful moment happen to them," he said. He says that the experiences described in his songs, "go everywhere from agony to elation."

Christensen has released two albums, "Road to be Free" in 2003 and "Bull Rush" in 2005. Both can be purchased on or on Christensen’s web site: The albums are also available for electronic download on itunes.

_Lisa Locke is the new host for The Somerville News Poetry and Music Series

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