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Davis, California

Monday, February 26, 2024

Fig+Axle reading series showcases local poets

Many of UC Davis’ student-run clubs typically meet, greet and operate solely through the campus community. However, the UC Davis English department’s graduate reading series, Fig+Axle, hopes to be an exception to this idea, as it unites the institutional atmosphere of UC Davis with the surrounding Davis community.

Fig+Axle began as a reading series which exclusively showcased the work of writers and poets in Voorhies Hall. Now, the club is doing things differently. The monthly reading format has been retained, but this time the reading series will move around town, incorporating various communities outside campus. Fig+Axle also now advertises upcoming writing and poetry-reading events on its Tumblr page.

At the reading events, English department graduate students share their written material with peers, which is an audience that is beginning to expand beyond primarily other UC Davis graduate students to include undergraduate students, members of the community and visitors and students from outside the area.

Reading series locations are now not just limited to Voorhies, or to UC Davis students; rather, the group seeks to incorporate more intimate and personal environments and residents outside UC Davis. Almost all of this year’s reading series have been held in downtown Davis within the spacious backyards of a few of the organizers’ homes.

“By having a series held inside the walls of an institutional building, you’re indirectly barring the outside community, or saying that the artistic efforts of UC Davis students are strictly institutional and not related to the outside world,” said Paola Capo-Garcia, a first-year poet in the creative writing master’s program and co-organizer of the group, in an e-mail interview. “I, for one, have been involved with reading series at other college campuses, but this one is its own thing, has its own heart.”

When walking past the event, the poems and stories may be heard through a PA system, and refreshments as well as an occasional fire pit are provided.

On April 20, Fig+Axle’s reading series will host its first-ever event for writers who are on tour. Anna Joy Springer, an assistant professor at UC San Diego as well as an acclaimed prose writer and visual artist, will be one of the writers sharing her work.

“Fig+Axle isn’t limited to graduate students. It’s an ideological venue for writers to share their work and hear new work,” Capo-Garcia said. “It also helps to have a program that is deeply committed to these readings, with writers who care about the performance of their work. It makes each month’s installment a particular highlight.”

The Tumblr page features many “hidden” events, such as discussions and forums with scholars from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and the University of Nebraska, just to name a few. Fig+Axle also posts works of art, such as a short film by Andrew Thomas Huang titled “Solipsist.”

Fig+Axle welcomes postings of all kinds and encourages people to send information they would like to see featured.

“The idea is that the blog functions as a resource for talks and events going on, hopefully alleviating the need to keep all kinds of e-mails in all kinds of inboxes,” said Brook Erin Barman, first-year poet in the creative writing master’s program and co-organizer of Fig+Axle, in an e-mail interview.

Art Middleton, first-year fiction writer in the creative writing master’s program and co-organizer of the group, said that using Tumblr has been a worthwhile way to spread the word about previously unknown events.

“The Tumblr account has been a great way to consolidate the disparate but rad events happening on campus that one often walks by or finds out about too late,” Middleton said in an e-mail interview.

As Fig+Axle continues to build momentum, its overall mission is to branch out, encouraging everyone to share ideas and events, whether it’s through Tumblr or the community.

“We’d love to hear about a new space opening up in town, or events that people may want our input in…” Middleton said. “Reach out, keep pushing.”

To find out more about upcoming Fig+Axle events, visit figandaxle.tumblr.com.

DOMINICK COSTABILE can reached at features@theaggie.org.


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