Men and women of diverse ages, ethnic backgrounds, education and experiences were joined Sunday in the universal language of poetry.
They explored themes as deep as life and death, war and peace, new love and lost love, crime and punishment -- and as whimsical as a man's memories of an old station wagon he once owned.
About 70 mostly amateur poets read excerpts of their work during a 4 1/2 -hour poetry marathon called "Urban Epiphany: A Community Gathering of Poets."
The program was initiated and coordinated by Celia White in celebration of the Buffalo area's diverse literary community in conjunction with National Poetry Month.
White, a writer, educator and poet, is head of cataloging and library instruction at the Montante Family Library at D'Youville College and the author of "Letter," a collection of poems published by Ambient Press in 2007.
White's latest untitled poem was published Sunday in The Buffalo News Spotlight Poetry section. Its last lines are "and life -- ever expanding / or shrinking / never known / until breath blows out."
Sunday's readings were held in Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave. at West Ferry Street. It was the sixth year of the Urban Epiphany program, though readings have not been held every year.
White said the program "celebrated the diversity of art, culture, poetry and performance, peacefully, in the name of the written and spoken word." There were some recitations and at least one song, but most of the presentations were poetry readings.
They ran the gamut of personal relationships, both intimate and distant; the changing of the seasons and the changing of relationships; the agony of war and the ecstasy of peace; the excitement of new love and the mourning of lost love. Interwoven were thoughts of personal redemption, many of them with deeper meaning than the words themselves.
Mark C. Lloyd of Lockport, a freelance writer and theater producer, read of death from his poem titled "Your Last Gasp." It last lines are: "I watched your last / gasp as it / stole my soul."
In a different vein, Ross Runfola read from his poem "The Dog Walkers Club." He described the people he met while walking his dog, concluding that: "We are finally the masters of our own destiny."
A Buffalo couple, Irene and David Sipos, read three original poems. In one of them, titled "Woody," David Sipos recalls his old station wagon with "wooden" sidings that weren't really made of wood; they were plastic. Treating the wagon as if it were a person, he never let "Woody" know that he wasn't really made of wood. But, in the end, Sipos read: "Deep down, I think he knew all along."
Like much of the other poetry, "Woody" seemed to be a metaphor for the way people feel about one another -- and how they treat one another.
Venecia S. Green, whose pen name is "GOODNESS," read:
"I am the soul of a lost African queen. My spirit runs deep like the flow of a stream. To crown my soul mate is my ultimate dream. Some say what is lost, may never be found. My quest must continue 'til my king is crowned."
Bruce McCausland, reading from his poem "Shared Gifts," summed up many of the other messages when he wrote: "The greatest gifts are those that we share, our hopes for each other and to show that we care. May the gifts you are given reach their fullest potential. What we each share with others is what's really essential."
One woman described a teenage girl's repentence, a sinner who answers a pastor's altar call. "Give your heart to Jesus," she sang, "This woman is a warrior for life."