Karen Hayes was an incredible poet who worked with children, adults, veterans, and dementia patients to share her love of poetry and its transformative power. She celebrated and was celebrated in every aspect of her life. She was loved unanimously. She carried an inextinguishable spark. If you would like to learn more about the life and times of Karen Hayes, check out here, here, here, here, and here.
Karen ran a monthly reading series with open mike and featured readers at a local Little Rock coffee shop called Guillermo’s. For years she kept it alive and going strong, always discovering new talent and spreading the good word. I kept meaning to go but other stuff would get in the way, I’d forget, I’d put it off. I’m no poet, I’d tell Karen. But Karen knew that even prose writers could have that poet soul. I finally hiked up my big girl panties and got to it. I went to one. It was so awesome, the energy was palpable and everyone there was there for the love of the craft. I decided my first night I’d be a regular from then on. And then my first was her last. When Karen died suddenly, no one knew what to do, what to say, or how to process. Instead of the next reading we held a poets wake. And then there was this question: what would happen? Who would lead? Who would keep Karen’s dream alive? I stepped up.
There was no one else, I only lived five minutes away, and it all felt like a sign. Working at the library, being a grad from UCA, being a local writer and a participant in Nanowrimo, I was in a unique position to invite friends and acquaintances from so many different circles to come together. I expanded the umbrella to include poetry and prose and I ran the series, posthumously named for Karen, for one year. Then Covid happened. We were once again in a situation where no one knew what to do or what would happen next. I couldn’t keep an in-person program running, and I didn’t yet know all all the ins and outs of Zoom. I set it aside, hoping Covid would run its course and we could get back together when Covid was over. Well. That clearly isn’t going to happen, and I think we’ve waited long enough. I know some people are understandably burnt out on Zoom, but I’ve come around to the way of thinking that something is better than nothing.
I return to you, now under the auspices of the CALS Writing Circle, the virtual Karen Hayes Poetry and Prose Monthly Reading Series. To kick it off right, the first event will be a two-night extravaganza, and attendance will determine which night we schedule going forward. Mark your calendars, friends, for the last Tuesday and Thursday in April. 4/26/22 and 4/28/22. 6:30pm-8:00pm both nights, online only, Zoom link to follow closer to time. Bust out and dust off anything you’ve been wanting to read. We’re back.