The Urban Room at the Salt Lake Public Library Main Branch was buzzing on Valentine’s Day. City Art, as part of the City Art Reading Series, presented an Evening of Love and Loss, featuring an A-list of the Wasatch Front’s favorite poets. Seriously, there was something for everyone and the room was packed with students, poets, and poetry enthusiasts. The format was for each poet to read a poem of love or loss from another writer and then to read one or more of their own as well. Most of the poets stuck to this format, and their choice of which poet to read and whether to read about love or loss was telling – a little extra peek into the minds of these people we’ve all come to know and appreciate.
Lisa Bickmore started the evening on a pensive note with Robert Lowell’s poem “Will Not Come Back.” She followed it up with an old favorite about loss those of us familiar with her work were happy to hear again. Joel Long read “Flying Home” by Galway Kinnell. He read about both love and loss in “Ghosts of Love” and “Kissing Lisa Hill,” which was a tender tale about awkward teens. Rob Carney memorized his presentation of Brent Cunningham’s “The Pyromaniac and the Gas Station Girl” and his own “How to Have a Campfire.” Abraham Smith, always dynamic, read so fast that one poem ran into another; his voice rose, filling the space, so much so that representatives from the meeting room next door just had to come find out what was going on. He read John Keats’ “The Living Hand” and a few of his own. Laura Scott chose WB Yates’ “Clothes of Heaven” and a tanka by Izumi Shikibu. Her own poem was about a devastating loss, a miscarriage – grieving for her own lost child, her voice trembling with emotion. The whole room had to take a deep breath after that one. Natasha Saje selected Bill Olsen’s “Loon,” and then read “Q” from her own collection, which was inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “Question.” Katherine Coles, former Utah Poet Laureate, read Emily Dickenson’s #277 from her facsimile and envelope poems (which you really should check out – for a peek into the process of this well-known poet.) Katherine’s poem, “February 14th,” described her husband’s frustration with the snow, because he knows there’s early spring flowers blooming under there. After her poem, “Stranger and Stranger,” we were left with the knowledge that all love is odd, and that’s OK, really. She also read from what she referred to her recent series of “annoyed” poems. Finally, Lance Larsen, also a former Utah Poet Laureate, began with Margaret Atwood’s anti-valentine poem, “You Fit into Me.” He read Linda Grey’s “Growing Up.” His own selections were wry, tongue in cheek works like “Sad Jar of Atoms” and “Elegy with Bra and Peppermints, 1969,” wrapping the evening up on a lighter note.
City Art events are free and open to the public. City Art is sponsored by the Utah Arts Council, the Salt Lake City Arts Council, Zoo, Arts, and Parks, X-mission, and audience donations.
–by Lisa Connors