Poetry from atop the Pagoda

News photos by Emily Thiel Patrick and Marilyn Klimcho, Berks Bards’ President Liz Stanley, Jen Gittings-Dalton, Linda Thompson, Rachel Degler, and Naimon Lyons pose after the writing workshop held at the Pagoda.

The pollen of the spring season, change in demographics, history and the Reading Railroad on the Monopoly game board are just some of the topics the view of Reading inspired. In hopes of igniting inspiration about Reading, two local art groups, Berks Bards and the Pagoda Writers, teamed up on Saturday, April 27 for a workshop focused on re-envisioning Reading. The art groups collaborated in a session held from high above the city at the Pagoda during the last weekend of April’s National Poetry Month. “The arts tend to be more interesting with the other arts,” said Jen Gittings-Dalton, with Berks Bards, “It adds to the energy.”

The workshop brought out around 20 people who were looking to write about their love of the City of Reading. As part of the workshop, participants gathered to the top of the Pagoda with the task of envisioning the Reading of your dreams. “Get a new perspective of Reading,” said Rachel Degler, of Berks Bards, before sending the group off on their own to climb the 87 steps to the top floor of the Pagoda. “It’s a spectacular landmark of Reading,” she stated.

Both volunteer run organizations are focused in making art accessible to those throughout the county. The Bards have worked with local musicians, brought poetry to prisons, foster grandparents, and nursing homes. The group has worked with the Berks Art Alliance, kids at Cornell Abraxas, and with “Poetry Out Loud” at Reading High School, where all participants are extremely responsive to the creative work.

“We take it to where people live,” said Gittings-Dalton. In response, the group has been invited in by the Pagoda and libraries throughout the area.

This is the 15th year the Berks Bards have been established. The first year, they hosted a 30 days 30 events for the month of April. Berks Bards still continues with a full plate of poetry events, but has simmered down since that first year. “We invite in prominent poets, host workshops and sprinkle the events in venues throughout Berks County,” said Gittings-Dalton. The Bards strive to incorporate local community agencies with their creative work.

“We feel poetry is a living art, it’s totally alive in all people,” explained Gittings-Dalton. “ comes out when its encouraged.”

The Pagoda Writers was started by Donna Reed, where they met at GoggleWorks. Now the organization, run by Linda Thompson Saknit, meet at the Pagoda from 1 - 3 p.m. the first Saturday of each month. Through working as a group, the Writers inspire each other to bring out their best creative work. “Every book in a library comes from an idea, which starts as a seed,” said Thompson Saknit.

“I hope provides an energy to see things in a new way and to express it,” said Berks Bards’ PresidentLiz Stanley.

With the view the Pagoda provided, the writers saw how nestled into the mountains Reading seems, how the litter, graffiti and broken windows are not visible and the hope that maybe, it’s possible for things to get better. Each participant brought their love of Reading and Berks County to the writing workshop; envisioning a change is the beginning to making it happen.

“The creative process is a collaborative effort,” said Naimon Lyons, who attended the workshop, “Working with others inspires your creativity... there is a creation in all of us. You need to find it and bring it forth.”

Writers in both Berks Bards and the Pagoda Writers read their work at the Open Mic held at the First Floor Cafe, GoggleWorks, 201 Washington St., Reading on the first Thursday of each month, because, as stated by Gittings-Dalton, “Art is the way a community can understand itself better.”