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San Clemente Journal

Beach Town Books is Hosting a “Poetry Hour”

Sep 01, 2022 09:32AM ● By Nina Welch

Poetry Hour facilitator Chester Delagneau, left, and poet Rod Schor.

by Nina Welch

Poetry Hour is a time for a gathering in the back of Beach Town Books, 99 Avenida Serra, on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 5pm. On such an occasion, a small group of poets convene in a comfortable setting amongst shelves of colorful books, just a nook away from the poetry section. One poet reads her poem of aging and tells us in the last stanza that there are no wrinkles in her mind or in her spirit. There’s a happy poem filled with sunshine and rainbows and one that is a memory of a father’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star. 

Poignant verses are read from a loving husband to his wife of sheens of grey in the shimmering green. Humorous words staggering across the page are recited about Grandma’s Saturday Night, and in another poem, there are memories of wet clothes hung on a clothesline underneath an apricot tree. A new member reads her love poem with a dark ending. This is just a hint of what comes from this group of poets in one hour, on one night in a charming independent bookstore. 
Poetry Hour is facilitated by Chester Delagneau, who is a writer and spoken-word poet. His performances have been digitized for the Hope Cartel website, a digital network that produces poetry podcasts and a print magazine. The demographics for Hope Cartel include late teens and early twenties. The concept is to give a voice, through poetry, to those who are angry or marginally depressed. 

Born in Nicaragua, Chester came to the United States when he was five. After struggling with academia, he found poetry in high school. His influences are Federico Garcia Lorca, Ruben Dario, Pablo Neruda, and Leonard Cohen. Chester’s prior education included philosophy, ethics, and theology, which he finds comes together in his poetry. In his philosophical manner, he relates what poetry means to him. “Poetry is where truth and meaning come together. Poetry gives truth meaning. If you don’t incorporate truth into a poem, it tends not to make sense. And if you don’t infuse meaning into a poem, it tends not to be relatable.”  He shared his poem, Power of ADHD, in a Poetry Hour session. 
The poets in this tight-knit group include Chester and his wife Sari, Diana, Sandy, Lupe, Mary Jo, Rod, Maddy, and Nina. Poetry Hour is a place of encouragement, growth, attitude, and a lot of humility. When new people come in, they aren’t intimidated because they are welcomed with kindness. According to Chester, Poetry Hour is for people who need to breathe, to take time for themselves to share their poetry or just listen. It is a place where people can heal by listening to other people’s stories. Right now, more than ever, people need a creative outlet. It’s not a luxury but a necessity for the human soul. “My vision is to have veteran poets mentor burgeoning poets,” says Chester. The readings allow the younger generation and the older generation to come together and watch the sparks fly. 

Due to the enthusiasm for Poetry Hour among the contributing poets, the sessions have recently been expanded to the second and fourth Thursday of each month and the third Thursday is now open for flash fiction readings. Chester has also asked the poets to join him for open mic at Knuckleheads Bar on Wednesday nights at 9pm.

Thanks to Beach Town Books for opening their store and their hearts and minds to host poets and their works. Poetry Hour is for those who like poetry or for those who are curious about poetry, and even for those who don’t like poetry or don’t think they like poetry. Everyone is welcome.
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