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.


Inspired: A FREE Community Poetry Writing Workshop

Rock Canyon Poets

Imagery in poetry helps to provide meaning within the limitations of language. In this workshop, participants learn how to create poems using imagery and metaphor to express ideas in unique and universal ways. Offered annually in participation with the Utah Humanities Book Festival by Rock Canyon Poets and Pioneer Book, this workshop will be presented in two sessions, followed by a reception and poetry reading. Participants will be encouraged to submit their poem to be included in a printed anthology and contributors will receive a free copy.


Pioneer Book, 450 West Center Provo, Utah 84601

What to Bring

  • Pen and paper to write and/or an electronic device to write on (laptop, etc)
  • Drink/snack if you so desire

How to Sign-up

To sign-up, email your name and contact information to rockcanyonpoets@gmail.com. Seating is limited. Come ready to write!


  • Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 at 6pm – Workshop #1

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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.