PETER PAUL VAN CAMP, the Rhymester thus described, writes:
Say, after hearing that, I hardly know where to commence….but I should state at the outset that I come from a Show Business family. Why, only a century ago my Grandmother Hazel (on Father’s side) played the piano one whole week at the old Pastime Theatre in our hometown of Coshocton, Ohio –accompanying the new Lillian Gish picture. Prior to that, in the 1880s, my great-great Aunt Katie (on the maternal wing) took to the thespian life and distinguished herself in eccentric roles which few others would even think to tackle….and eventually, I came along.
As the first male in our line to clamber repeatedly onto the stage, I like to believe my efforts have not disgraced our name. I may not be the person to ask about this, though.
It was as a stripling that I first tinkered privately with meter and rhyme, and allowed myself to be pleased with my efforts. By the age of nineteen solitude would no longer suffice, and I acknowledged my calling. Within days I had shaken hands with my father, my brother, and my pet terrapin; had moved myself up to Montreal, and appeared at a coffeehouse hootenanny, styled as a Performing Poet. The rest is, as they may say, histrionic.
Coffeehouses led to classrooms, church socials, and one time, a cow pasture. Next came bookstores and beaneries. Barrooms followed, but fortunately, the Folk Festivals intervened and – as a friend exclaimed at the time – “This boy is going places!” And I was….as decades passed and boyhood receded…so very many places. Adopting the slogan “Appearing Wherever Poetry is Welcome – And Elsewhere”, I trod some of the show world’s stonier pathways – often in thin shoes – and thus far have managed to arrive intact and on time.
Now, with the happy advent of the House Concert, it seems at long last there exists a platform where every nuance I have learned “Elsewhere” can be afforded a temporary home and a fair and earnest hearing.
That’s why, when called upon, it pleases me no little to tighten my collar, straighten my shoulders and expound anew my Aunt Katie’s fervent pledge:
“I’ll be there with lard in my hair, and my ears pinned back!”
(see for yourself if I’m not)