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Left of the Bank fills audience with food for thought, laughter

By Staff | Oct 12, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Poetry lovers from around the town joined together at the War Memorial Building, to enjoy the 14th Annual Left of the Bank poetry reading event on Friday evening.

Sponsored by the Friends of Shepherdstown Library, the event featured an evening of good food, friendly conversation and music, which was provided again this year by local folk and blues musicians, Laura First and Don Oehser. The event is also an important fundraiser for the Shepherdstown Public Library, according to Master of Ceremonies Ed Zahniser.

“I want to thank you all for your wonderful support for the library and its building project,” Zahniser said as he kicked off the evening’s events. “All of the food was created by FOSL members and their friends — it takes a lot of people to make this happen every year. Tonight, we have six poets performing, three of whom will perform their own works, and the other three will perform the works of their friends or students.”

Zahniser was the evening’s closing performer, but spent the majority of the evening focusing on the other performers and light-heartedly joking with the audience about social issues and FOSL’s name.

“For a group of fossils, we sure can do a lot!” Zahniser quipped, before mentioning his reasons for appreciating poetry. “Poetry has always given me a sense of urgency, a knowledge that I can do quite a bit. Poetry is excellent, because it is for everyone.”

The first poet to read was Katie Quinnelly, of Shepherdstown, who read several poems by her friend and Shepherd University alumni Kelsey Stoneberger, currently of Portland, Oregon. Stoneberger’s poems reached deep into her intellectual thought, contrasting well with the earthly, sentimental works of the next poet, Lynn Swanson. Swanson, who is a Hedgesville-based writer and dance instructor, discussed memories of her childhood and young adulthood through her poetry, reflecting on happy family moments she wishes she could experience again.

“The first poem I’m reading is an autumn poem. It’s called ‘Peeling Apples,’ and is based on a time when I and my husband were in Vermont. My next poem, ‘To My Childhood,’ is about my Scottish grandmother and her good cooking,” Swanson said, before reading those and a few other poems.

Shepherdstown-based poet R.L. Sibley, who has a doctorate in performance studies from Louisiana State University, followed Swanson, performing a couple of poems written by students in his Wednesday night poetry-writing workshop at Four Seasons Books. Sibley’s performance struck a chord with the audience, drawing them in with his skillful portrayal of each poem.

Tracy Seffers, Shepherd University registrar, member of a local drumming circle and acclaimed writer, then took the stage. Seffers described her work as being inspired by the theme of water, mentioning the first and last poems in her set were both written about water.

“I’m delighted to be in such good company here — this is my first time reading at Left of the Bank. My poetry life probably began around a river, and will probably end with a river,” Seffers said, before reading these, as well as works about her life experiences.

West Virginia Fiction Competition Writer’s Award winner Jesse Stone, of Hedgesville, was the last poet before Zahniser to read during the event. As a former science writer, Stone’s poetry depicted science in a humorous light, such as when he discussed the intelligence of dolphins, who Stone suggested should be awarded diplomas for their intelligence, if it weren’t for their inability to accept a diploma, due to their lack of hands.