For English majors and creative writers, poetry is a part of daily life. But even if the last time you read a poem was in your high school language arts class, tonight’s poetry reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery at 8 p.m. will offer the chance to rediscover this unique art form with some of today’s most promising young poets.
Tonight, the Poetry Night Reading Series will host some of the featured poets from independent poetry publishing house Flatmancrooked’s latest publications. These include Not About Vampires: An Anthology of New Fiction Concerning Everything Else and The Slim Anthology of Contemporary Poetics, both of which are due in 2010.
These poets are finalists of Flatmancrooked’s First Annual Poetry Prize and the 2009 Flatmancrooked Fiction Prize – writing contests that are open to amateurs.
At 9 p.m. following the reading, audience members will have the opportunity to read their own work in the open mic portion of the evening. Complimentary wine for guests of age and refreshments will also be offered.
UC Davis University Writing Program professor and poet Andy Jones will host the event. He said he expects the event to be unpredictable and entertaining, and plans to read some of his own poetry also featured in the Slim Anthology.
“Flatmancrooked publications are not tame or safe or conservative, but rather they are edgy and they take risks and they’re forward-thinking,” said Jones, who is also Flatmancrooked’s editor-at-large. “I expect the poetry to be edgy and interesting – and at times outrageous.”
In addition, the event offers the rare opportunity to enjoy poetry at an art gallery.
“Some people might associate poetry and art galleries with dry, high culture that’s removed from their immediate needs and concerns,” Jones said. “But the John Natsoulas Gallery makes a point of bringing lots of different, interesting performers into a gallery that has beautiful art on the walls.”
Chris “Whitey” Erickson, a graduate of the UC Davis Master’s in creative writing program, will read from his work featured in Not About Vampires. Jones said Erickson is a dynamic performer and sure to be a highlight of the performance.
“He’s an amazing performance poet,” Jones said. “He creates amazing characters and presents them in such a way that I find them to be funnier than, say, 90 percent of people I’ve seen in comedy shows.”
Julia Jackson is a Davis native and current graduate student at San Francisco State University. She will be reading her poem “For the Sun,” which was chosen as a finalist in the Flatmancrooked contest and will be featured in the Slim Anthology.
Jackson said “For the Sun” is one of the first poems she ever wrote – as a student at Davis High School.
“The concept was writing a poem to someone you admire,” Jackson said. “At the time I was in high school and didn’t have a crush on anyone, so I wrote it to the sun. It’s this impression of being outside and making the most of time outside.”
Jackson praised Flatmancrooked’s efforts to help aspiring writers engage in the literary community through contests and other outreach programs.
“To be starting a career in creative writing now is kind of scary,” she said. “But it’s really inspiring to see that really you just need to have an active and engaged community that you can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with, and as long as that’s a community of support, there’s a lot of excitement.”
Fellow San Francisco State graduate student and contest finalist Shideh Etaat will read her poem “Petrichor” at tonight’s performance.
“It’s written in a strange form that I’ve never really used. It’s about falling in love in a foreign country,” Etaat said.
Etaat said she is excited for the performance and the chance to perform in an art gallery. Although performing her own work can be nerve-wracking, she said the experience is gratifying.
“I get really nervous beforehand, but it’s a whole other side of writing,” she said. “Sometimes when you’re nervous and you get up there you just want to get off [the stage], but [the key is] allowing yourself the pleasure of being in that space and taking your time with it.”
ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.