Word Up

The power of poetry

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Those who prefer candy over creative wordplay will be out of luck when they plunk a quarter into a new contraption located at Fairhaven’s Village Books.

Instead of something sweet to chew on, people contributing their 25 cents to the Poetry Gumball Machine will instead spin a wheel to receive a poem. The spare change will add up as the verse is dispersed, and all funds raised through the month of April will be donated to the Whatcom Literacy Council.

Bellingham typically celebrates National Poetry Month in a big way, and this is but one instance of the methods Village Books is using to harness the power of the art form to contribute to humanity. Through the month, the bookstore will continue to host visiting poets and will also take part in a variety of other events with the literary genre in mind.

For example, they’ll be on hand to help sell books at “SpeakEasy 21: Poets Talk Poetry” Sat., April 21 at the Encore Room at the Mount Baker Theatre.

There, seven regional poets—Bruce Beasley, Ramona Elke, Jory Mickelson, Kevin Murphy, Nancy Pagh, Dayna Patterson, and Rena Priest—will reflect on their work, what inspires them when it comes to writing, and why poetry is so important to their lives. The free event is the 21st in an occasional series of “SpeakEasy” gatherings emphasizing themed, audience-friendly presentations of quality poetry, and is open to all.

Days later, the Write Riot Poetry Slam will return to life for one night only. The Wed., April 25 gig takes place next door to Village Books at the Colophon Cafe, and the revived event—which happened monthly at the Honey Moon from 2014-2016—will be led by former host and esteemed local poet Jessica Lohafer.

Signups will start at 6:30pm, and it’s suggested those who want a place to secure a spot on the lineup show up early to do so. (Entry to compete or listen in is free, but the purchase of food, drink and books is encouraged.)

Bellingham native and World Poetry Slam contestant Ryler Dustin will be the featured poet for the evening, and if you like what you hear, join him for an April 30 Chuckanut Writers workshop. He recently returned from an off-grid writing residency, so it’s likely his creative juices are at maximum effectiveness.

Dustin’s new collection, Heavy Lead Birdsong, can be purchased at Village Books, where—like the rest of the nation—sales of poetry doubled in 2017 thanks in part to social-media-savvy author Rupi Kaur’s bestselling collections, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers.

According to Village Books co-owner Sarah Hutton, the young Indian-Canadian author is inspiring converts to seek out other poets.

But Hutton says poetry isn’t a fad, and Village Books will continue to celebrate scribes even after National Poetry Month has come and gone. 

“It’s interesting to see a trend develop and to see a book like Milk and Honey become a phenomenon,” she says. “But our goal is to connect readers with a lasting love affair with all books, including poetry.”

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