Dana Levin and Paisley Rekdal Poetry Reading

It was standing room only at the 15th Street Gallery in Salt Lake City Saturday, September 30th. Everyone wore new fall outfits or old favorites brought out of storage for, even though the sounds of children trying to wring a few more evenings outside out of summer 2017 could be heard through the open doors, the night was definitely chilly. Perfectly crisp. Perfect for an evening with two wonderful poets. The King’s English bookstore sponsored the event which, due to its appeal, had to be moved to the larger venue down the block. Dana Levin and Paisley Rekdal each read from their latest works to the packed house.

Dana Levin traveled all of the way from New Mexico to read from Banana Palace. She said the book evolved out of her growing anxiety for the future, which she described as technological change and an appetite (as in all sorts of greed.) She captivated the audience with four longer poems from Banana Palace. Her first poem, the title poem to the collection, attempted to explain Facebook to someone from an apocalyptic future. Incorporating modern technology into literature is often difficult, but this poem was charming. Her second poem was about her actual cat’s actual appetite, and she took a relatable subject for many and turned it into a clever metaphor about desire for the simple things in life. Her third poem explored how she and her bi-polar father bonded over food. It was an interesting look at how children react to a parent’s mental illness, as was her fourth poem, which chronicled her father’s melancholia using pop culture references like Krakatoa. She concluded her reading with a brand-new poem, “You Will Never Get Death Out of Your System.”

Paisley Rekdal, the Utah Poet Laureate, began her reading by explaining the terror of reading to people you know and will see again. Her new book, The Broken Country explores the trauma of war – the genetic components, new scientific studies, and the effects it has on families. She was inspired to write about this topic by her time spent in Vietnam. She read the first chapter which details a crime in Salt Lake City where a Vietnamese man went on a stabbing rampage. Her narrative describes the victims’ and witnesses’ experiences with compassion, but also instills a desire to understand the perpetrator’s circumstances and point of view. Most of the audience seemed enthusiastic about reading the rest of the book. As Poet Laureate, she couldn’t just read from a work of non-fiction, so she concluded her reading with a poem, inspired by a sculpture, an assemblage of plane parts, which she saw in a Vietnamese military museum in Hanoi.

The reading closed on that somber note. It was dark outside and the children had all gone home when the assembly adjourned to The King’s English down the street for the book signing and a meet and greet with the two poets.

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Lisa Bickmore: Poetry of Place

Thursday evening was a beautiful one to spend on the patio at the King’s English bookshop in Salt Lake City. Air conditioners hummed in the background and children could be heard playing even though it was a school night. A sizable crowd gathered to hear Lisa Bickmore read from her latest poetry collection, Ephemerist. The release of Ephemerist came soon after the release of her second collection, flicker, which she considers a surprise and a gift.

Lisa Bickmore is Professor of English at Salt Lake Community College, where she is also one of the founders of its Publication Center. Her poems have been published in numerous publications, including Quarterly West, Tar River Poetry, Sugarhouse Review, Glass, The Moth, Terrain, and Southword. She was awarded the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize for 2015, and the 2014 Antivenom Prize for her second book, flicker.

Before launching into several selections from both Ephemerist and flicker, Ms. Bickmore took a moment to explain the importance of art in everyone’s life. She feels life is diminished when people have no way of expressing themselves through art.

Ms. Bickmore’s poetry is at times somber or humorous, but always deeply personal. She tackles the difficult issues like aging, grief, and homeless youth with sensitivity and from an accessible perspective. Several poems revolved around the change in perspective she had while traveling overseas and the space in between or disconnect she felt between her daily life and the one she’d stepped into.

The reading lasted about thirty minutes, with Ms. Bickmore choosing to skip a few poems she’d selected for the evening just because they didn’t suit her mood at the moment. Afterward, she retired to the Mystery Room to sign books and answer questions.

Lisa Bickmore’s poetry is very grounded, tightly tied to place, whether she is talking about her home or another country. Take a two hour field trip to someplace nearby, like a hotel lobby, museum, laundromat, or diner. In your notebook, record your impressions. Try to capture the atmosphere – the people, the mood. Use all of your senses. Then, write a poem that ties this ordinary scene to a larger theme.

Chalk the Block Call for Artist

Are you a graphic artist who loves to work with chalk? Would you like a chance to create something for the 2017 Chalk the Block event at the Shops at Riverwoods in Provo? Provo Poetry and Enliten Bakery would like to sponsor an artist for this year’s event and create a beautiful piece of art inspired by and incorporating the work of a local poet. Choose from five poems submitted to Provo Poetry and sketch a proposed chalk painting based on and incorporating your chosen poem (and the name of the poet). This year’s event is September 14th to 16th (with the next weekend as a contingency for rain delays). Send your sketch to provopoetry@gmail.com with “Chalk the Block” in the subject line by September 7, 2017.

Choose from these poems:

1.

Tanka

by Laura West

 

Winds twist violently

through tired branches of our peach

tree, heaving dust of summer.

The cleansing September rain,

for us, cannot come too soon.

 

2.

by Colin Douglas

 

“Your poems are querulous.”

So says the woman who leaves the table,

Frowning with disapproval.

Querulous? But she may be right,

And I would prefer to hide in a huckleberry bush,

Feet in the roots, hands extended into the leaves

 

3.

[tanka]

by Neil Shelley

 

In the soft shadows,

contractions birth her strength.

Sweat beads upon skin;

he sees a crimson drop fall.

Her work done, the cry anew.

 

 

4.

What will you call her?

by Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen

 

compass of quantum foam

conduit of accommodation

 

juggler of change

absorber of dereliction

 

sacredly managed veil

of consecration and sacrifice

 

architect of light vessels

 

the girl who chews at obedience

like a leather strap

 

thermometer

mercury

element

atom

 

Eve

 

 

5.

Skydive

by Trish Hopkinson

 

The corpses jump like

jellyfish balloons into

a trailing ocean

of exhausted clouds and sky.

They don’t know they are dying.