York (not New York)

I gave a reading Sunday in York, Pennsylvania, one of many small Keystone State cities that hasn’t quite overcome the series of economic and social body-slams it’s experienced in the last several decades. Reading, Pa, which I wrote about in September, made news as “poorest” city; York has to contend with a recent moniker of “murder capitol” of the state. I know a bit about the depressing state of small, dying cities–I live near Allentown, PA and grew up near Camden, NJ. Just to name two…

But back to York.

YorkArts hosts a reading series twice monthly on Sundays at 3 pm. The gallery has a small footprint but big heart, and there was a pleasant crowd of attentive listeners and open-mic participants who respected the time limits and chose good work to share. Many thanks to Jeff, who keeps the space going (and creates art in several forms) and to Barbara DeCesare, a poet and friend who is eight-ways-of-awesome, and this is an understatement. See her website: Barbara DeCesare.

I’m still mulling over my multiple responses to yesterday’s event: depressing town, gorgeous autumn day, connections with old friends and newer friends, thoughts about the poems I heard and the poems I read and the artwork I saw, the daydreaming I did on the long trip there (94 miles) and back, the music I listened to. The apple Carol gave me. The homeless-looking man dragging his cart along Philadelphia Street.

Places like York and Reading and Allentown need the arts desperately, though most of the citizens, business-people, and politicians don’t realize it.

YorkArts on Beaver Street manages to make of itself a beacon for the arts in York. The gallery shows are genuinely fine, and the place sponsors poetry readings. Send them money! Or support a similar organization wherever you’re located. Especially if you’re located in or near a small city that’s fallen on hard times.

That’s my stumping-for-the-arts for this month. Back to poetry, gardens, or philosophy soon.