Poetry readings rock. That is, if the featured reader is the rollicking vocalist Keith Flynn. Flynn will read from his work at Stars Theater on May 16 at 6 p.m.
Flynn has a rack full of honors, nominated for a Pulitzer and a Pushcart Prize, he won the Sandburg Prize and was twice named the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for North Carolina. He also is a musician, previously the lead singer and lyricist for The Crystal Zoo, now touring with his combo, the Holy Men. He likens the experience to being captain of a pirate ship.
Author of five poetry collections, most recently “Colony Collapse Disorder,” Flynn knows how to hold an audience.
Flynn salts readings with snippets of song, such as the deep bass gospel of “Lonesome Valley” prefacing “The Secret War of Art.” He wants that connection, fueled by what the poem calls a “mad, culpable need to see the audience sweat.”
“Poets are dramatic liars,” he said at one reading.
His poems are calls to action, attempts to weave “threads that are raveling toward the truth.” In “If you are Chagall,” he said, “The total work of art is achieved through the soul’s inner necessity, the way music persuades without argument.”
And Flynn is a persuasive man. He also is a man of contradictions, western North Carolina mountains softened by Romantic leanings, hard rock and soulful gospel.
“Music,” he said, “is the only moral law.”
His poetry is music, what he calls “language with a shape” through which he reaches for moments of “quiet, beautiful astonishment.”
Flynn’s associative mind leapfrogs from political to folk landscapes with ease, mining topics from news and memory.
His new poetry collection explores global collapse through the metaphor of honeybee colonies. He constructs this hive with 52 poems that travel the globe and circle like a Mayan calendar. “Everything is connected,” he said. The responsibility of the poet is to show the links.
The hero of his novel is a one-legged Mayan circus performer. Like that hero, Flynn’s trying to keep balance and symmetry in his world.
An editor as well as a poet and vocalist, Flynn founded the prestigious Asheville Poetry Review, which has international distribution. He’s listening for new voices, so the open mic session after his reading is an open door for poets who want to audition their work.
“We’re very pleased to have Keith Flynn as our featured in Fuquay-Varina,” says Laura Towne, who co-hosts the Third Thursday reading series. “This will be his first featured reading with our Third Thursday group, and we hope everyone gets a chance to come out and hear this extraordinary poet and editor.”
A reception fundraiser for North Carolina Writers Network follows the reading.