Spoken Word: The Three Amigos

On Sat, March 7 at 3pm, a band of laureates will gather to share their love of words with audiences at the Audubon Environmental Education Center at 1401 Hope St in Bristol as part of the poets’ year-round tour. The performers, dubbed The Three Amigos, are former poets laureate Lisa Silverberg Starr and Tom Chandler, and Dr. Rick Benjamin, current RI poet laureate.

They were given their nickname by Tom Chandler. “Or maybe Lisa Starr said it, Tom ratified it and I simply got caught up in the wave,” admits Rick Benjamin.

Chandler adds, “The idea for the Amigos came from Dean David Lux at Bryant University, where I am a professor. David wanted to sponsor a reading by the three of us on campus. We spent the day together and realized we really enjoyed each other and each other’s poems.”

I asked, “What are the most influential or memorable performances you’ve had?”

Tom responds, “I haven’t been laureate for several years, but one event that stands out in my memory was when I was asked to be the inaugural poet for then-mayor Cicilline and given less than a week’s notice to write the official poem that would be printed in the program. As it turned out, there was a major nor’easter on inauguration day. The ceremony was held outdoors anyway, with the wind driving heavy snow nearly sideways. I was last on the roster of speakers. By the time I got up to read my poem, I’d been sitting outside in a blizzard for nearly an hour. I forced myself to read slowly and not let my teeth chatter. I read it right because I meant every word.” This is the difference between poetry and merely saying something: the labor of every word stroking meaning upon silence, and why few ever earn the title “poet laureate.”

I asked what’s next for the The Three Amigos, and Chandler replied, “What’s next? Who knows? Hopefully more invitations to read to ever-more enthusiastic audiences.”

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