Saturday, April 11, 2015

Slamming the SOHO Out of Poetry

The echoes of poetry filled The SOHO in the BURG Gallery in Stroudsburg, PA on Thursday April 9th as The Pocono Arts Council presented a Poetry Slam which was a competition among poets organized by Carlton Farnbaugh (aka The Carlton) and Emceed by Russel Austin The event was held in conjunction with The Pocono Arts Council who will present their exhibition which is a part of a National exhibit for the environment titled, “The Earth Speaks” later in April. Poets who sought to share their works and those who would determine which poets would receive the prizes offered to them arrived early to prepare for the evening's festivities. They were soon followed by a multitude of poetry lovers who filled the modest space that that was set aside within the gallery for the gathering.

The evening began with some welcoming words provided by The Carlton that included an introduction of the judges and how he met them. The panel of judges consisted of Jakelyn Rothchild, Theresa Ratliff, Martelle Jones, Kyle Rebar, and Jody Singer who spent the evening thoughtfully listening to the poets before rendering a numerical score to rate the words and their presentation. The welcoming words and introductions were followed by a poem rendered by The Carlton which set the mood for the meaningful words that were to be experienced throughout the evening.

It was after this reading was the evening's Emcee, Russel Austin, was introduced wherein he took the microphone to share his welcoming sentiments before introducing the first poet to signal the beginning of the the competition's first round. From the first words Cee Rock uttered to the last, a barrage of imagery filled the darkened imagination of those who dared to envision their realities. His reading was followed by a few comedic words in reaction to the work that were given by Mr. Austin and an assessment of the judges who shared their scores. The introduction of the poets and reactions to the work by Mr. Austin along with the Judges' scoring process was repeated throughout the competition.

The next poet to share his voice was Joe Shayka whose depth spellbound the audience toward a deeper understanding of themselves. He was followed by Gabbie Piper whose powerful words pierced the soul of those who were touched by them. She was followed by Tom Johnson-Medland whose meaningful words struck a chord of truth that lingered in the soul long after they fell into their silence. He was followed by Joseph Christian who shared his poetic endeavors for the first time that evening and whose words touched the heart with their beautiful uniqueness. Joseph was followed by ….. well, me who decided at the last minute before leaving the house to go to the event to be brave enough to share my poetic attempts with the group. I read a short piece that amused the judges and the audience. I remain thankful for their favorable response.

After a few moments when I completed the reading of my poem, Mr. Austin shared some humorous observations and anecdotes with the gathering that was met with much laughter while the names of the poets who would go on to the second round of the competition were being selected. After Mr. Austin completed his set, the names of Gabbie Piper, Cee Rock, Joe Shayka, Joseph Christian, and (to my astonishment) mine were announced. The power and meaningfulness found in the renderings given by the poets who survived the first round were either equaled or magnified during this second set of readings. All but one and that one was me. I was a bit saddened but this soon passed as I felt a joy for the other poets who made it to the final round with their marvelous work.

The completion of the second round let to a break in the festivities that enabled the participants and audience alike to share their love for poetry and art with one another. Many partook of an opportunity to delve more deeply into the work presented by the poets through conversing with them thereby enhancing their insights to the work and themselves. It was after this interlude did Jody Singer take the microphone in order to share news of all the upcoming happenings in the arts that will welcome all art lovers to attend in the near future. After he finished his words that generated a great deal of anticipatory excitement, the names of those who would go onto the third and final round of the competition were announced. They were Gabbie Piper, Cee Rock, Joe Shayka, and Joseph Christian. I joined the audience and the judges anticipation as I awaited the experience the poetry would provide me.

Each poet's words epitomized the fullness of expression found in the art of poetry during the final round in the competition and the audience shared many breathless moments with the judges as their words robbed the air of its subsistence in order to be utilized in each molecule that brought a more profound life to every syllable uttered. It was after this round was the room engulfed in one breath as the names of the winners were announced. They were Gabbie Piper who was awarded Third Place and Joe Shayka who was awarded Second Place upon which they received gift certificates and a copy of the film titled, "Groundswell Rising” which is a documentary about the current climate crisis. The winner of the First place award went to Cee Rock for his poem titled, “Serpentine Scrimage” for which he received the honor of being published in the Pocono Arts Council's Newsletter, on their Facebook page and website, a Free 1 year membership to the organization, and an opportunity to read his work prior to the Artists' Reception of their upcoming “The Earth Speaks” art exhibition.

After photographs commemorating the event were taken of the winners, the judges, and the entire company of poets by Tursaphoto Lawlor who (with the assistance of Phil Carollo) also captured some truly astounding still photographic images throughout the evening that embodied the full flavor of the event and has a video available to view at, a poem was read by Tom Johnson-Medland. His words inspired a quiet contemplation among the gathering as it was followed by words of farewell shared by The Carlton that led to the eventual departure of all who attended. Thoughts were shared from heart to heart as the threshold leading to the night's air was crossed and the passage traveled upon the avenue of remembered words led them home. You'll find photographs taken during the Poetry Slam held at The SOHO in the BURG Gallery in Stroudsburg, PA in The SoHo in the Burg Poetry Slam 04-09-15 Gallery at You'll also find photographs taken in various locations throughout the area in The Pocono Art District 2015 Archive at and those in a wider variety of venues in The Performing Arts 2015 Archive at

The SOHO in the BURG Gallery is located on the corner of 6
th and Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA which was the location of the J. J. Newberry’s store. The gallery opened its doors to the public in April of 2012 and is owned by Andrea Robbins Rimberg who has become well known for her exuberant energies and creativity as many of her pieces are on display in prestigious galleries throughout the United States. In addition to hosting The Pocono Arts Council presentation of their Poetry Slam, The SOHO in the BURG Gallery is currently showing an exhibition featuring the work of Emilio Arostegui and Joe Mooney along with the work of local artists in a group exhibit titled, “Springing in The Rain.” The entire exhibit will on display until the end of May. The gallery will also host The Forwardian Film Festival to be held on May 2nd and 3rd featuring the cinematic endeavors of local filmmakers and actors along with those created internationally. You can learn more about The SOHO in the BURG Gallery, their future exhibits, and all the gallery has to offer the creative community by exploring their Facebook Page at

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center is part of The PoconoArts Council which is an organization designed to build the communities in which it serves artistically and culturally by providing leadership, service, and education. It does so by offering avenues for artists to display their work through the center and other galleries, educational opportunities for those who would like to explore and/or enhance their creative natures, and encouragement to those who seek to express and/or support the arts. Their next event featuring poetry will be held prior to the Artists' Reception of their exhibition titled, “The Earth Speaks” scheduled for Saturday April 18th beginning at 4pm featuring Brian Fanelli of unbound CONTENT, Dale Wilsey Jr. of Swandive Publishing Company, Olivia Romano from Breaking Ground Poets, and the SOHO in the Burg's poetry Slam winner, Cee Rock. The exhibition will continue to be on display until April 26th. Another poetry related event will be held at The Northampton Community College - Monroe Campus in Tannersville, PA on Thursday April 23rd beginning at 6pm. You’ll be able to learn more about The PoconoArts Council, The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center, and all they offer the creative community at

Photography by Paparazzi Paul.

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