It’s hard to believe that this energetic man turned 90 years old yesterday. He could run circles around most of us who are 30 years younger! Ashley did not want a huge party in the Town Field with lots of friends from off island. He already did that at 80. He said, “All I want from anyone is a poem.” Well, he got many many poems from his island family and friends from off the island at a pot luck supper and poetry slam tonight at the Neighborhood House. What a fun event, with several people reading original poems or favorite poems of others. Donna Isaacs, who organized the whole evening, also purchased two really nice books where the poems will be mounted and available for Ashley to read and reread to his heart’s content.
The readings began with Ashley leading everyone in the poem, “My People” by Langston Hughs. Soos Valdina accompanied him with a translation in American Sign Language.
20 people read poetry to Ashley. I did not photograph them all. But among them were the evening’s organizer, Donna Isaacs:
Our postmaster Joy Sprague reciting Edna St. Vincent Millay (from memory)
Rhode Island poet laureate Rick Benjamin:
Louise, Susannah, and Whitaker Chaplin with original poems:
And Dr. Shawsie Wawsie (aka Sam Shaw) giving an incredibly dramatic and energetic rendition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
All in all it was one fabulous night. Why yes, I read an original poem too. Didn’t bother to take a “selfie” while I was reading, so here’s a photo of the poem I wrote and presented for Ashley’s birthday book.