SHEPHERDSTOWN – In its second season this year, Bookmark the Park has once again brought a variety of literary events to each of Shepherdstown’s parks: Viola Devonshire Park on East German Street, Bane-Harris Park on West High Street, Cullison Park on Rocky Street, Riverfront Park on North Princess Street and James Rumsey Monument Park on Mill Street.
The series of monthly events began with a kick-off event in April at Cullison Park and is scheduled to end Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. with a children’s librarian story hour at Riverfront Park.
“October will be the end of the streak – it’s a makeover for the June one that got watered down,” Shepherdstown Parks and Recreation Committee member Effie Kallas said Sunday afternoon. “It’s difficult, of course, because the weather is always the key factor. [in an event’s success] — if it’s raining, if it’s too hot.
Kallas was busy on Sunday afternoon, leading July’s event in Rumsey Park – a local author talk by Stephen Altman, focusing on the works of English poet John Keats, who inspired Altman’s 2021 book, “Blues for the Muse.”
“This is our very first author conference! Of course, Bookmark the Park is only in its second year this year,” Kallas said, mentioning that in addition to the author’s speech, a raffle, book distribution table and refreshments were also held at the event. “At the end of the day, we really want people to know where their parks are, to know that they’re open and you can use them for free and good use is silent reading or group reading. So it’s just kind of a way to get people to think differently about their parks, because most people just think of “walking the dog” or “letting the kids play”, and there’s more to do in the parks on a regular basis.”
According to Kallas, the inspiration for the July event came from Four Seasons Books owner Kendra Goldsborough, who frequently helps out with the event by selling copies of featured books and sending email notifications Bookmark the Park to its client mailing list.
“I thought it would work well for the venue!” said Goldsborough. “He’s an incredible speaker, as we saw today. He is very engaging, the book is fascinating and he knows his subject well! I just thought it would make a perfect Sunday afternoon experience.
“Blues for the Muse” was also a standout suggestion, Goldsborough said, as it was one of Four Seasons Books’ top five sellers last year.
“I’ve never spoken outside before. It was certainly nice to do it, especially when you were surrounded by some of the things Keats wrote about: nature, the changing seasons, the importance of connecting with others, it’s all possible here,” Altman said, after completing his presentation and question-and-answer session.
Altman, who holds a master’s degree in literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, frequently gives literary workshops, like the one he recently gave to a group of Morgan Academy high school students last spring. . Her favorite poet to discuss these workshops or her writing is Keats – her idol since she was 21.
Despite his long love for everything, Keats – his poetry and the story of his life – Altman’s first book, written in the 1980s, was a Western novel. It’s taken all the time since then, for his second book, “Blues for the muse”, happen. But, even though he incorporates poetry, Altman noted that he does not consider himself a poet, but rather a “writer of verses”, because his preferred style of writing will always be prose.
“After a year of working on the novel, I realized it had to be written in poetry, so I threw the novel away and started over!” Altman said of “Blues for the muse”, which took a total of eight years to write. “I’m very happy with it, so it was worth it.
“I don’t consider myself a poet, nor would I tell people to expect the usual poetry, if they read this, because it’s much more accessible and light-hearted than most of the poems you would meet”, Altman said. “People reading this tend to say that after the first eight or ten sonnets, it reads like a story. And that makes me feel good, because I want them to read the story!
The next Bookmark the Park event, “Let’s play, picnic and read,” there will be a children’s event at Bane Harris Park on August 20 at noon. Participants are encouraged to bring their favorite picnic food and books to share with new friends.