Since 2015, Rock Canyon Poets in Provo has proven to be a community hub for poets to “promote the disciplined study of writing poetry as a serious art form.” With a little more than 50 members born out of a group of close friends from Utah Valley University’s creative writing program and from other open mic opportunities, the group began as a way of looking for something more “academic” and to hopefully further establish camaraderie. The growth of individual poets in the association is aptly showcased in the launch of the group’s annual collection. The third edition of Orogeny will be celebrated Tuesday Feb. 13, at Provo’s Pioneer Book.
The amount of academic focus and “consistent workshopping” within the group over the last few years has built up anticipation for this publication and its unveiling. Rock Canyon Poets’ co-founder, Trish Hopkinson, talks about this evolution of the group’s poets: “The poems [in this third print edition] demonstrate this growth,” she says in an email interview. “Each issue of Orogeny is better than the previous.” The word “orogeny” is a geological term derived from the Greek ὄροσ, mountain, and γένεσισ, birth. “An orogenic episode,” she says, “is the process whereby collisions and separations in the earth’s crust give rise to mountains. Co-founder Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen and I found this to be an excellent metaphor for how poets create.”
Previous issues of Orogeny have provided an impressive mix of content. Regarding the last edition, Hopkinson says, “I was able to share the manuscript with some of our favorite Utah poets and poetry professors who were generous enough to write summaries and praise” for it. Former Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen, wrote, “In short you’ll find poets dreaming their way onto the page. By dreaming, I mean closing their eyes to see better, opening them to grab up any details they missed. Transformation is their state flower.”
Shiffler-Olsen wrote her own thoughts on the latest edition:
The poets whose work comprises the third volume of Orogeny offer us a journey through landscapes of the interior and exterior, through moments proximal and distant. These poems are the sedimentary collection of life’s work, detailing what it means to be human. Ideas are built up, unspooled, rethreaded, woven, and laid flat. In the poetic process of observation and evaluation, these voices offer means whereby all may find equalizing access to the beauty and darkness on the mountain path.
The upcoming live event this week is sure to please. It is “a pleasure to see themes coming together and complementing each other,” Hopkinson says, referring to “a widely diverse group” of poets included.
At the upcoming launch, poets will read from their various contributions to Orogeny, followed by an open mic, light refreshments and a book signing. “We do have a pretty amazing group of poets with a wonderful variety of backgrounds and education,” says Hopkinson. “Many have been published in literary magazines and have books out as well. Others are emerging poets with great talent and potential. Sometimes we have chairs trailing into the bookstore aisles and other times, [it’s] a small gathering. Each reading is eclectic and introduces the audience to poets they may never had heard of before as well as to poetry forms and styles they may not yet be familiar with–from sonnets to slam and everything in between.”
Rock Canyon Poets sponsors reading events each month. “Most months,” says Hopkinson “we also have feature poets who come share their work, including nationally known poets like Meg Day and C Dylan Bassett, as well as Utah favorites such as Laura Hamblin, Rob Carney, Kimberly Johnson, Nancy Takacs, Jan Minich and others.” Their next feature poet on March 14 is RCP member Tacey Atsitty, whose full-length collection Rain Scald is now available for pre-order from the University of New Mexico Press. In April, National Poetry Month, the group will present one of the last living Beat poets from San Francisco–Neeli Cherkovski.
Rock Canyon Poets also hosts monthly workshops for its members along with an annual workshop for the community in the fall, entitled “Inspired.” This free, two-session event is sponsored each fall by Pioneer Book and Utah Humanities in conjunction with the Utah Humanities Book Festival. Participants are encouraged to submit their poem to be included in a printed anthology; contributors receive a free copy. The third issue of Inspired was released in November. One particularly unusual entry in each issue is a crowd-sourced poem created by attendees of the annual Provo Pride Festival.
Membership in Rock Canyon Poets is by invitation or portfolio submission only. For more information, contact Rock Canyon Poets, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Orogeny” Launch Party, Pioneer Book Provo, Feb. 13, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, copies of “Orogeny” will be available for $10, light refreshments.