The wall at BYU’s venue The Wall.
“What I find amazing is how many people just happen upon an open mic and just happen to have a poem they can read,” says Marianne Hales Harding, co-founder of Provo Poetry. “In the past few years, especially, there have been more and more opportunities for writers to gather with like-minded folks and share their work.”
Provo Poetry is back with Pioneer Book at 450 West Center Street to host a night of community poetry and open mic storytelling on May 5th, 2017, from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Be prepared for poetry slam performers and other locals who come to celebrate the spoken word. Those who sign up to read will receive a free poetry book of local community poets, donated by the Rock Canyon Poets.
“We get a wide variety of poets at these sorts of events,” continues Hale Harding in an email exchange, “from performance poets who loom large behind the microphone to more low key poets who are nonetheless quite engaging, from high school poets to retirees, from conservative viewpoints to more liberal viewpoints. It’s often a real cross section of Utah County.”
The upcoming Art Stroll, also May 5th, is a perfect night to enjoy the charming heart of Provo. Red-brick buildings, kiosks plastered with local flyers, and rows of mom-and-pop shops remind one of the growing pulse of Provo. “As we near summer, I long for my walks to Pioneer Book where I’d linger and read behind the shelves. On my way, I liked to stop for a mouth-watering pastry at Enliten Cafe (the turtle cheesecake is my favorite),” says Fabian Trujillo, a local poet and Provo Poetry volunteer.
These open mics are a unique experience, sometimes breath-taking. Provo Poetry was founded at the beginning of last year by Hales Harding and Trish Hopkinson, two fast-moving poets with the work ethic of honeybees. These two have their hands in other pots and jars as well—including the creation of Provo’s poemball machines. For just a quarter, you can encourage and be a part of the Utah literary art scene. Feed a quarter into the machine, and enjoy a short tidbit of a poem. The machines are available at Pioneer Book or Enliten Bakery & Café. Poems include work from top Utah poets, including Rob Carney, Meg Day, and others. Among these, poemballs also feature local writers who often visit Enliten’s Thursday night creative writing open mics.
“All we did was organize what was already there in the community,” says Hales Harding, referring to the Poemball program, “and make it more accessible … bite-sized! When you think of the hundreds and hundreds of poemballs that have been tenderly folded (by hand!) and sent out into the community one by one, you start to get an idea of 1) the desire of the general public for poetry [and] 2) the long reach of one great idea.”
The group also reguarly pairs poetry and graphic arts by doing chalk art poetry. Poems have appeared on the Provo Chalkboard (on the house next to Sodalicious
, billed as Utah’s “favorite soda shop”) and The Wall restaurant’s giant chalkboard on the campus of nearby Brigham Young University campus. We’ve “gotten a lot of good feedback on those, ” reports Hales Harding, though occasionally, chalk being water-soluble, they get rained out.
Rain or no, Provo Poetry’s mission is to nurture the artistic soul of a small town-city, and “to make public the potential of poetry and document the profound way that language stirs our feelings and changes the world–one word at a time.”
A sample poemball:
by Dennis Clark
The locals call it “Brickyard Beach” because
it’s littered with the broken bricks and clinkers —
some burnt, some swollen, some almost dead ringers —
the workers culled at low tide, loading scows
for over fifty years and up to eighty
thousand bricks a day. Some immigrants
and Chinese contract workers did that dance
with some few islanders. The load was weighty.
I have to comb the beach and sift a thousand
chunks, adorned with barnacles, to find
most of a brick that didn’t make the scow
but has enough of bulk to show the brand
when joined to other pieces — an opinion
built into many island homes: dominion.
For all things poetry in Utah County, visit the group’s official website.