Written by Danielle Champiet-Coronado
Oppression and empowerment may seem like an unusual topic for a poetry reading. It’s certainly not the romantic prose of Shakespeare and Lord Byron that I had grown up reading. Flowery words to make the heart swoon, still such a hot topic would have been right up Shakespeare’s alley, showing how things are and not how we wish them to be as some artists were fond of doing. For that is how change comes to be. Not by wishing on stars, but by taking what is wrong and bringing it into the light, looking at it earnestly and taking steps to repair or eradicate. One might not associate such a notion with poetry, but poets have been doing just that for centuries. There is nothing wrong with romantic prose designed to flatter and win the hearts of their intendeds, but poetry can and does serve a higher purpose; social change.
Women’s issues have definitely been at the forefront this year and it’s no wonder with the elected officials that we’ve been saddled with this past election. Nearly every decision they’ve made so far has been centered on the promotion of racism and oppression of women. It’s no surprise that protests and marches have become monthly events and on a global scale beginning with the Women’s March at this past January. One of the largest protests that has ever been, it was represented on all seven continents! There were other topics in the mix, but the largest message was a universal “NO” to sexism and oppression! But the oppression of women is not just a women’s issue, nor an issue only for political partisans, as illustrated by our awesome host, David Hill. He stresses that, as an inclusive and diversity-celebrating event series, the Barnes & Noble poetry group welcomes all, without bias as to gender, ideological leaning, or anything else.
When I asked him how tonight’s theme and the book he selected, Veils, Halos And Shackles by Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay came to be, David humbly responded that “he was proud” to showcase such an important book and expressed gratitude to Barnes & Noble for allowing such a controversial reading this evening. And he is right, Veils is a great collection that illustrates the horrors and atrocities that women around the world continue to be subjected to and fight against. But if these things, the sexual assaults and violence against women, are to be eradicated, the fight is not just for women alone. It will take men like David Hill and Wayne Lee standing with us and telling other men that violence and rape will not be accepted by anyone anywhere. With sexual assault and violence occurring so abundantly, anyone, particularly men, taking opposition to it seems out of the norm. But just as violence can beget violence, peace and enlightenment can spread like wildfire!
This evening had started off much like the others, with our poised and well-dressed host, David, introducing the featured book and our guest poets for the night. Ever-entertaining, underneath that posh and polished exterior is torrent of quick thought and great humor. Enthusiasms were paused upon learning that two of the guest poets were stuck in traffic, but not to worry, there are always plenty of poets ready to share their creations for the open-mic portions of the gathering. Open-mic reads are voluntary and not everyone who attends reads. Some attendees come just to enjoy the arts created by others. That’s one of the things that I love most about this group; they are very welcoming, supportive and accommodating. David Hill and Rainy Knight work hard to make sure that everyone has a great time. This dynamic duo has been organizing and hosting these monthly events together for four years and have created some spectacular gatherings!
Just as spectacular as the events are the incredibly talented poets in this group, as you will see by the video links below. Even with a topic as serious as the global oppression and empowerment of women, there is levity and fun infused throughout the evening. Fun, you say? Poetry can’t be fun, it’s all stiff and serious. I assure you, it can be downright hysterical and light-hearted humor is needed to balance out the heavy emotions that come with reading poems about rape and violence, especially if one has encountered such things first-hand. Writing poetry is very cathartic as is reading it, even if it’s not a poem you wrote, it’s an expression of your feelings and thoughts. Much of what was shared this eve was of a serious nature, but there were also prose of empowerment and humor shared. Click the links and enjoy the performances:
As you can see, this group is a powder keg of talent. Varieties of styles and topics all fantastically performed. I was tempted to comment on each, saying what I loved about them. I wrestled with that idea as I wrote this piece and the more I thought about it the more it seemed that any comment would be tantamount to telling someone how to feel. So all I will say is that they are all incredible works and let the essence of these rasas take you on their epic journeys. I would like to give a special thanks to Ann Tweedy for accommodating me with a read after the event. Murphy’s Law was stalking me this night and my camera app had seized up during her initial reading, which was amazing. So, thank you Ann! I would also like to give a huge thank you to David Hill for his assistance in getting permissions and catching a couple of my errors before I published this article. His help was invaluable as this is my most complicated piece to date and had so many moving parts to it. Thank you David, you’re aces!
Barnes & Noble is the perfect venue for such things. I’ve always felt this location was great pyramid of literature, and not just because there’s excellent coffee and treats just inside. Their aromas practically capture me in a coffee tractor beam upon entering the parking lot. No, this location has always been special to me. It’s bright with great aesthetics and outstanding staff, who are always helpful and friendly. Books are artistically displayed and I swear the building was made of something that makes one want to read every book they have all at once. They have wi-fi available, but who can think of the internet with all of those great books just inches away? I can’t. All of that we can credit to Bjorn Sorensen, the Community Business Development Manager of this fine establishment, for running such a bewitching store.
While tonight was one of great art and wonderment, one surprise after another, is was one of a bittersweet farewell as this was Rainy Knight’s last event as host, Rainy’s Farewell. Rainy is leaving to pursue her craft as songwriter. I had the opportunity to talk with this vibrant free-spirit for a few minutes after the readings had concluded. She described her music and “folksy and storytelling.” I have to say, I’m a big fan of both and can only hope that she treats us to a few songs at some future point. We discussed our mutual love of writing and the difficulty of pursuing too many passions at once, which is what led to her farewell tonight. After talking with them both, it’s not hard to see why David Hill and Rainy Knight made such a great team. Both are spirited and dynamic with just a splash of regality, but not too much. On the topic of spirited, David Hill introduced the featured poet for August as none other than the marvelous Anatoly Molotkov or A. Molotkov as he’s published under, reading from The Catalog Of Broken Things. That will be on 8/29 at 7pm at the Barnes & Noble at 7700 NE Fourth Plain Blvd – Vancouver, WA. Clear your schedules and don’t be late!
*The featured book, as well as the others that accompanied it, is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble stores or online: