This event spans two days: Friday, October 21, 2016 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM and Saturday, October 22, 2016 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM.
Host: Fred Whitehead
This year marks the 29th gathering of the Rendezvous, which over time has met in various places around the U.S.
George Martin, frequent Master of Ceremonies, recalls: “It has been a group of people who like to be together for two, maybe three days with the purpose of reading to one another and listening to others who are always free to join us. We glow in a firm friendship, and then we leave, full to overflowing with metaphor, and we go home. In between meetings we seldom communicate, but then comes a longing to listen, and share what we have done in the absence of each other. I suppose we rendezvous as the old French fur trappers and woodsmen did in the early centuries. Once a year is enough. I think poets are equally as solitary.”
George elaborates: “Decorum is observed as a matter of form. Everyone’s work is applauded. No one is ever dissed, or panned, or laughed at, or looked down upon. All is accepted as effort, and work as worthwhile. That is the tenor which has been observed for all these years. Maintaining that attitude has been very productive. I state my own experience as an example. At my first attendance I read things I thought were pretty good, not having any idea what poetry really was, and I was applauded; it felt really good. I also listened, and listening compared what I had performed and what others did, and I learned I could have written or performed better; and so the next year I actually did better; and then better, and so on. I have also seen the progression of learning in others who have been with us over the decades. The process is very beneficial, educational, and edifying.”
Somehow it is fitting that the 2016 event is held in the historic Westport district of Kansas City, Missouri. A trading post and commercial center, it was one of the “jumping off” points of the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Kelly’s Westport Inn, still extant, was at one time operated by Albert Boone, a grandson of Daniel Boone. Today the area is home to numerous restaurants and bars.
The writer Edward Dahlberg, whose autobiography Because I Was Flesh, is arguably the greatest book that ever came out of the place, once remarked: “I would have stayed in Kansas City if there had been two people I could have talked about books with.”
That said, the town has had a rich if little known literary history. Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde passed through on their journeys west. Sinclair Lewis resided in the Ambassador Hotel, near the Westport area, when he did the “research” for Elmer Gantry. The lyrical proletarian writer Meridel LeSueur lived here as a teenager, when the Industrial Workers of the World had their agricultural section headquarters in the River Market area. Better known, of course, Ernest Hemingway got his start as a young reporter for the Kansas City Star; its terse stylebook had a strong impact on his development.
The most important cultural contribution, surely, was classic Jazz. And before that Ragtime with its three greatest composers all from Missouri. Blues shouters like Big Joe Turner who would sing all night in the clubs were folk poets: “When you see me sleeping, baby, please don’t think I’m drunk. I got one eye on my pistol, and the other eye on my trunk.” Count Basie observed: “Kansas City is a cracker town, but it’s a happy town.” Now the 12th Street and Vine Historic District and its Jazz Museum commemorates that legacy, and there are fine books documenting the glory of those days.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City is home to a long-standing and notable literary magazine, New Letters, presently edited by Robert Stewart. The Linda Hall Library, founded after World War II, is one of the best science libraries in the world, and has an impressive collection of rare editions of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Darwin. Similarly distinguished, the Nelson-Atkins Museum has classic, Renaissance, and modern art (especially paintings by Thomas Hart Benton), and an extensive Asian art section.
Benton’s home, in the Valentine District, is now a Missouri State Historic Site, open to the public.
For more information on the Rendezvous, contact Fred Whitehead, P. O. Box 5224, Kansas City, Kansas 66119, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.