The old maxim “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind when describing what happens at the annual Poetry at Poquatuck benefit in Orient.
Eleven local visual artists are paired with writers — most from the North Fork, some published and some not — to create poetry inspired by the artists’ paintings and images.
“Some poetry, just like some paintings, you just feel something by looking at it,” said organizer and participating poet Yvonne Lieblein, who began pairing writers and artists together for the event three years ago.
During each reading, the artist’s work will be on display so the audience can see the inspiration that led to the collaboration. This genre is called ekphrastic poetry, which means an image inspires a poem.
“It makes poetry more accessible the way we do it,” Lieblein said. “It’s a nice way to make the event be about more than just reading poetry. I kind of integrated it and made it a more collaborative experience.”
The artists will present their work and the writers will read their poems this Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m. at the historic Orient hall.
The benefit, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, is held to raise funds for Poquatuck Hall, which was built in 1874 and is currently in the midst of a $250,000 capital improvement campaign.
One of the pairings this year is Greenport artist Kara Hoblin and Southold poet and painter Vivian Eyre.
This is Eyre’s third year participating in Poetry at Poquatuck, while it’s Hoblin’s first. Hoblin, who is well known for her chalk art which you might have seen at North Fork wineries and restaurants, is also an avid painter of whales. She presented a particularly colorful one as Eyre’s poetry inspiration.
“Sometimes I struggle trying to make words for the art,” Hoblin said. “It’s much easier for me to just make it and know what I’m feeling and just produce, so it’s nice to have someone who can speak beautifully and knows the right words to be inspired by it and to let it influence their art.”
Eyre’s poem, “Whale watching at my favorite haunt,” was inspired by Hoblin’s painting, which at the time was hanging on the wall at North Fork Roasting Co. in Southold.
“It took a long time for me to figure out what angle did I want to take,” said Eyre. “Did I want the whale to be speaking to us? Did I want the artist to speak to us? Did I want just my kind of reactions to speak for the whale?”
The result incorporates her experience of gazing at the painting while visiting the local coffee shop.
“Waiting in line for my favorite latte, I’m drawn into a nearby painting, a sperm whale scrimshaw in watercolor, ink and chalk,” reads an excerpt from the poem. “I want to put a good face on it, sperm whales seem to smile after all and yet my disquiet rises in those enveloping seas, shades of aubergine, black, hospital green, blood makes the water turn pink.”
Linton Duell, founder of Poetry at Poquatuck and president of the Orient Community Activities, Inc. board of directors which maintains Poquatuck Hall, noted the event is popular with Orient year-rounders and weekenders and offers a much-anticipated event in the slower season.
“It kind of breaks up the winter nicely and is well received by those who like poetry,” he said
Along with the artists’ and poets’ presentations, special readings will be given by current Suffolk County Poet Laureate Robert J. Savino, as well as former Suffolk Poets Laureate Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan and Ed Stever.
Another aspect of Saturday’s event proves once again that this is not your typical poetry reading — it’s B.Y.O.B and audience members are encouraged to bring their own food.
To Lieblein, who published her first novel “The Wheelhouse Cafe” last year, it is very important that the event be as audience-friendly as possible. After the readings and art displays on Saturday, the crowd is encouraged to stay and meet the poets and artists.
“It has sort of become an annual potluck community celebration,” she said.
For those who can’t make Saturday’s event, poetry and artwork presented at Poetry at Poquatuck will be on display at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport from April 16 to May 22 in honor of National Poetry Month.
A gallery opening presentation will be held at the library on April 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. and will include a panel discussion with many of the poets and artists from Poetry at Poquatuck.
The 10th Annual Poetry at Poquatuck benefit will take place on Saturday, March 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Poquatuck Hall, located at 1160 Skippers Lane in Orient. $10 admission at the door benefits the historic Poquatuck Hall. For more information call (631) 477-9600 or visit Poetry at Poquatuck on Facebook.