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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Dr. Andy Jones hosts Poetry Night Reading series at John Natsoulas Gallery for Davis locals and students alike

Davis Poetry Night hopes to bridge the divide between university students and locals


By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org


Every first and third Thursday of the month, Dr. Andy Jones hosts his Poetry Night Reading Series at John Natsoulas Gallery on 521 1st St in Davis. Featured poets start performing at 7 p.m., while the open mic starts at 8 p.m.

Jones has been hosting poetry nights since 2006 which, for the past 12 years, have been held at the John Natsoulas Gallery. He is a poet, a UC Davis faculty member and academic director, an essayist and a host of the KDVS show “Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour,” which has been ongoing for the past 23 years. 

Jones has had the pleasure of interviewing renowned artists and writers such as Margaret Atwood, Sherman Alexie, Ian MacKaye and Gary Synder, according to the Poetry in Davis website

“I have the good fortune that I get to interview lots of local and faraway poets,” Jones said. “We have a professor of English coming up from Southern California in November to give a reading. We have the California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick coming up from the Central Valley to give a reading and some of these people reach out to me because the poetry series is so well established, and because we can usually offer a good sized crowd for our visiting and local poets.” 

Anyone is welcome to partake in the open mic section of the night. The list for open mic spots fills up quickly and it’s encouraged that participants sign up before 7 p.m.

“The readings give UC Davis students an opportunity to see excellent professional writers, most of the poets come to their hometown of Davis and perform in a beautiful setting,” Jones said. “And some of these poets are academics with degrees and books. Some are stage poets, or spoken word poets or Sacramento Urban poets and so many of them are people who our students wouldn’t be able to encounter if the poetry night reading series didn’t exist.” 

On Thursday, Oct. 19, D.R. Wagner and Dave Boles will be reading at the Poetry Night Reading Series on the first floor. 

Wagner is an author, musician, poet, artist and lecturer at UC Davis who also having his own press in the 1960s and created a prolific number of works. Boles is a publisher, writer, artist and creator of the Church of The Illuminated Monkey. Boles founded Cold River Press, as well as other publications and many magazines. He will be reading from his latest book “Vision of a Merciful Land.”

 “[It’s] a trip through history, ancient history and how we relate with our ancestors in ancient times, and now in modern times,” Boles said in “Vision of a Merciful Land.”

The John Natsoulas Gallery has been open in downtown Davis for over 38 years. Natsoulas started the conference The Beat Generation and Beyond where legends such as Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen have read. He was taught poetry by Michael McClure, Ruth Weiss, Anne Waldman and Amira Baraka. Natsoulas donates gallery time for free so that the Poetry Reading Series can keep going. 

“There was no poetry scene at the university when I came here,” Natsoulas said. “If you scratch the surface in Davis, there’s some really amazing poets. There’s some amazing artists, there’s some amazing musicians. There’s some amazing dancers.”

Natsoulas believes that Jones’ hard work is responsible for there being a rich poetry community in Davis.   

“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Jones because he represents everything that is good and the idea of exchange and collaboration and sharing an experience. I mean, that’s what he’s all about. He may not know it, but that’s what he’s doing,” Natsoulas said. “Dr. Jones is kind of the most important poet[s] in Davis because he’s not only interested in his poetry. He’s interested in this concept of collaboration.”

Jones believes that the poetry nights have served as a way of getting students and Davisites alike to be a part of the Davis community. 

“The poetry night reading series offers an opportunity for town and gown to intermix,” Jones said. “Town, referring to people from the city of Davis but also the Sacramento Valley who come to our readings on a regular basis and then the gown would be academics, students, faculty, etc. Even though we live in a university town, the people in the university and the people of the town can remain segregated from one another, because of the different activities of poetry night gives these very audiences and performers an opportunity to intermingle, learn from each other and experience novel forms of creativity.”


Written By: Zoe Smith city@theaggie.org