Go Deeper

In(visible) Keepsakes: Q&A with Sarah Heady of the New Philadelphia Poets

Posted September 3rd, 2009

Sarah Heady of the New Philadelphia Poets wants you to experience poetry through the magic of alchemy when you see their Philly Fringe production, In(visible) Keepsakes, this Friday, September 4th at the Magic Gardens. She says you shouldn’t expect an intimate gathering of local poets simply reading their work. Instead, they’re going to channel a medieval sense of carnival to explore the ways poetry can come to life.

In(visible) Keepsakes doesn’t sound like a traditional poetry reading, how is it different?
I don’t want to give away too much about the show, but we want to create a carnival-like atmosphere where audience members can directly interact with our work. In the first part of the show, participants will be guided to different poetry stations where we perform little vignettes that will last a half an hour. They don’t have to follow a set path, but eventually we will direct audience to a more centralized location where we will perform our collective poem as the grand finale.

Have elements of the collective poem(s) been written, or rehearsed, beforehand?
Yes, a lot of material has already been written as we spent the last three months preparing for this show. However, most of our vignettes will solicit text from the audience, which will be incorporated into the second part of the performance.

Is there an underlying poetic theme that will bridge the two parts of the performance?

The theme of the show is alchemy, which is a rich poetic subject deeply rooted in early Western civilization. Most people understand it as the traditional practice of transforming base metals into gold, but also alchemists sought to discover the elixir of life as a way to create new bodies and souls. The process itself is obscured in many allegories and symbols, because alchemists generally wanted to keep their work hidden. So the interpreting their work was inspiring process and also provided fertile ground for thinking about writing poems.

After the jump: alchemy in words, snacks, and prizes!

We also did a lot of research and have sessions where we would share our findings. Everyone had their own goal or angle to understanding alchemy. Some group members would take a less literal approach and, for instance, draw parallels between alchemy and arson. So we hope to give audience members a lot to think about after they see the show.

What is it like to write a collective poem? Most people think poets write individually.

In a way, it’s almost like being in a band or forming a dance troop. We had to learn how to be more interactive with each other. All of us have our own writing styles and distinct tastes for poetry. Now, we all know how each of us operates as writers, which has only strengthened our unity. I think what brings us all together is the desire to promote the literary arts in Philadelphia.

Tell me more about the New Philadelphia Poets.
New Philadelphia Poets was founded in 2007 by Debrah Morkun. After she moved back to Philadelphia, she determined her day’s activities by flipping a coin. This led her to a bar where she coincidentally met another poet. Since they both expressed a desire to expand Philadelphia’s poetry scene, the two decided form a new collective. Debrah later posted an ad on and I responded to it, like most of the other members.
It started off as a weekly workshop and then we began to plan traditional readings around the city. The opportunity for us to perform at this year’s Fringe festival has allowed us to be a bit more experimental with our work as we incorporate more elements of performance.

How many poets are in the collective now?
There are ten members total, but only nine will be participating in the show. We’d like to have others join, but we want to find poets that can operate on the same plane and communicate our vision.

Word on the street says the show will offer prizes.
We’ll be giving away poetic keepsakes, but you’ll just have to come out to see the show. Plus, there will be free beverages and snacks!

There will be snacks there will, beee-eeeee snacks—there will be snacks! In(visible) Keepsakes opens—and closes—tomorrow, September 4, at the Magic Gardens on South Street. Only five bucks!

–Spencer Silverthorne

Photo credit: Patrick Lucy