Davy Rothbart of Found fame in Lansing for Poetry Out Loud

Davy Rothbart will be at: Poetry Out Loud 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 Fairchild Theatre, Michigan State University Competition begins at 9 a.m. Free www.michiganhumanities.org

It’s always fun catching up with Davy Rothbart. 

Rothbart, an author and literary entrepreneur, is the creative juice behind Found Magazine, which publishes the flotsam and jetsam of life — anything that offers a glimpse into someone else’s life, in the form of notes that are retrieved from streets, sidewalks and just about anywhere you can imagine. Thousands of contributors send their “finds,” including quirky love letters, grocery lists and rambling thoughts that are written down and then lost, tossed or mislaid.

Rothbart began Found in 2001 after being inspired by a note left on his windshield. Since then, there have been seven editions of Found, in addition to special-edition books including a Found compilation of Polaroids, and a Found celebrity issue.

Over the past several months, Rothbart has been shooting a documentary film in Indiana about a basketball team. You might expect someone who makes a living selling a magazine about people’s hidden secrets would have a different take on Indiana’s heralded game. He does.

Rothbart isn’t shooting a documentary on a basketball team playing for a championship; instead, he is shooting a coming-of-age story about the Medora Indiana Hornets, which didn’t win a basketball game last year in a state where the game defines the culture. Following the publication of this story Davy brought the Hornets luck and they won two games.

His documentary may be the flip side of “Hoosiers,” a 1986 movie that paid homage to Indiana basketball. Medora and its 500 residents are facing some especially grim economic and social circumstances, due to the loss of jobs and the decay of the social infrastructure.

“A documentary is not a huge leap from Found Magazine,” he said. “Found gets you wondering about the lives beyond the notes, and I hope the documentary will do the same thing by looking at what is going on behind these basketball players.”

Rothbart said he was inspired to shoot the documentary after reading about the basketball team in a New York Times article in November 2009. As of mid-February the Medora Hornets had not won a game this year, after going 0-22 last year.

Rothbart will be the guest performer at the Michigan Humanities Council’s Poetry Out Loud State Championship at Michigan State University March 12. The competition features 32 high school students from across the state, reciting poetry in a forensics-style competition. About 8,000 students from 32 high schools competed to make the finals.

One winner from Michigan will get the chance to compete in Washington D.C. for a $20,000 scholarship. State winners receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital.

Each student selects three poems from a list of hundreds, memorizes the poems and does a dramatic reading at the competition.

Michigan Humanities Council executive director Mary Kathleen Wolf said the Poetry Out Loud competition exposes students to a body of literature while getting them ready for the real world.

“The competition prepares students to present in front of an audience. Once they select the poem, memorize it and learn about the author, it becomes a passion for them.”

She said the poetry program helps round out the council’s commitment to its literary arts programs, such as The Great Michigan Read program, which selects a book by a Michigan author each year to be read by the entire state.

This year, three guest judges will make the final cuts, and Wolf said they were selected for their interest in poetry and the arts. Serving as judges this year are Steve Amick, Ann Arbor author of “Nothing But a Smile”; Michigan Radio arts and culture reporter Jennifer Guerra; and Terry M. Blackhawk of the Inside Out Literary Arts project in Detroit.

Wolf said Rothbart is a perfect choice to perform at the event.

“Found art is probably the most poetic artform there is,” she said.

Rothbart agrees. “(The authors of Found writings) express themselves so unselfconsciously. There is an intimacy when they don’t know they are being watched, and poetry manages to do that.”

He said when he was in high school he would write poetry. Since then his creativity has taken him in a number of different directions, including winning a Hopwood Award at the University of Michigan and writing a collection of short stories. He also recently wrote and was the “star” of a documentary called “My Heart is an Idiot,” about, as he calls them, “the ups and downs of my love life.”

Rothbart said poetry and other creative outlets have been very important to him and he will carry that message to the students at the competition. Rothbart will also do one of his edgy renditions of his Found readings, in which he reads some of favorite Found notes.

“I’ll tell them they can do whatever they want to do — just do it. They have to find a way to prioritize their creative aspirations.”

He holds himself up as a case in point. “There are always sacrifices. Other people my age are buying houses, I have six roommates, but I get to do stuff I love to do.”

Davy Rothbart will be at: Poetry Out Loud 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 Fairchild Theatre, Michigan State University Competition begins at 9 a.m. Free www.michiganhumanities.org

Bill Castanier has been an award-wining weekly newspaper editor, advertising and public relations executive in his 40 year career. In addition, he has been an executive with a newspaper trade association and founded Michigan’s first technology association, I-TE@M. He writes a weekly newspaper feature on Michigan authors and is on the Board of the Kerrytown BookFest and the Michigan Notable Book Awards. He has the only daily blog on Michigan literature (Mittenlit) and founded Spartanpodcast.com.

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