Poetry in motion: KAXE/KBXE to host third annual Beat Cafe

Steve Johnson, Flickr CC

Steve Johnson, Flickr CC

Every weekday morning, my local public radio station shares a poem recorded by a Minnesota poet in a program called “The Beat.” I must admit, I run hot and cold on these poetry segments. I’ve heard poems that have shook me to my core, but most poems bother me. They irritate. Aggravate. Infuriate. Provoke scorn or derisive screaming. If you see me hollering in my car on Highway 169, I’m most likely directing my rebuke at the poet. The way they read, in that voice. That pretentious poet voice that must be taught in MFA programs, right? Why would you talk like that for any other reason?

(clipped monotone) “How now brown cow? (pause) Not how. But *why?*”

All that being said, poetry always demands reaction. As much as I hate some poems, I am rarely bored by them. I always experience emotion. What else does that? Music maybe, but not always.

This Friday, April 3, Northern Community Radio will broadcast a live radio show celebrating the art of spoken word and music with the third annual “The Beat Cafe.” The live show, which takes place from 6-8 p.m. Friday at the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji, features renowned Minnesota poets reading their work and the music of Brian Laidlaw and The Family Trade.

Northern Community Radio is an independent affiliate of National Public Radio serving Northern Minnesota with original, community-centered content. They produce my Great Northern Radio Show, which along with The Beat is one of their major projects funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. If you like my show, you’ll probably enjoy this one, which is also a blend of music and spoken material, Though The Beat Cafe is arguably a bit classier than the talking animal sketches and inappropriate memoir exemplified by my show.

If you’re in Bemidji Friday evening check it out. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Meantime, here is the station’s press release that explains more of the particulars:


Independent National Public Radio affiliate KAXE/KBXE is presenting a live radio show of spoken word and music. For the third year The Beat Café is live from the former train depot and fruit warehouse, the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji. Amidst assembled folding chairs and twinkling lights on a beautifully refinished wooden warehouse floor, poets and musicians will create a community night of words and song on Friday April 3rd from 6-8pm. Tickets are free but limited and can be reserved by calling 800-662-5799.

The Beat is a daily segment on Northern Community Radio made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage fund. Every weekday KAXE/KBXE listeners get a tiny pause in their day: where poetry, read by the poets themselves, emanates from their radio speakers or cell phones. From the get-go listeners (especially people who didn’t think they liked poetry) appreciated and were inspired by the words of poets. The Beat is on-air at 7:40 and 11 every weekday morning, and has an archive of poetry available for download at www.kaxe.org.

This year’s Beat Café is a gathering of chosen poets from northern Minnesota and beyond, hosted by arts and cultural heritage producer, Steve Downing. Sean Hill is the featured poet who is widely published and has won awards from the Bush Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, the Region 2 Arts Council- as well as the prestigious Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Most recently, he received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s currently a visiting professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Featured music is Brian Laidlaw and The Family Trade. Laidlaw is a member of the songwriting faculty at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. His latest album was a 7” vinyl record released by Hymies Vintage Records’. In late 2014, Laidlaw released a hybrid poetry/music project called Amoratorium, a vinyl LP with a companion poetry chapbook in the liner notes (Paper Darts Press). His first full-length collection of poems, The Stuntman, is forthcoming – also with a companion album of music – from Milkweed Editions in 2015.

The Beat Café III – Friday April 3rd from 6-8pm live from the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji. Audience members should be in their seats by 5:30. Call 800-662-5799 for free tickets.

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