Sound, Symbolism, and Meter: Utah Poetry – Rock Canyon Poets

Reading and writing poetry can often be a lonely act, but there’s a rich history behind live readings, bringing words from the page to spoken voice and performance. Sometimes joyful and triumphant, sometimes melancholic and heavy, poetry readings are never boring. These events in Utah will have you, like Allen Ginsberg written in To scream— “to burn for the ancient celestial connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”


Despite rampant development, the central street of Provo still retains the charm of the main street of its birthplace. It’s the kind of place you imagine would be perfect to street for dollars or a window shop for a dress for formal spring. It is there, near an upstairs window at book of pioneers, where Rock Canyon poets gather for their monthly workshop. Organizer and Founder Trish Hopkinson said the idea had roots in the Utah Valley University English department in 2013. While finishing her degree, Hopkinson and Bonnie SchifflerOlson organized Rock Canyon as a way to continue creating and creating their poetry. “Once a month, we meet in person, and everyone brings eight copies of their poem, and then we distribute them,” Hopkinson says. “We read the poems twice and then let the poets know what we like, which we think might need revising. [We] give them ideas to continue building their poem to a finished state. She says feedback is given in a good-natured manner and everyone is happy to have feedback.

Photo: @clancycoopIt’s now been nearly three years since Rock Canyon Poets was founded, and they’ve just released their third compilation of Utah poetry in a journal titled Inspired. They recently got together for a launch party, where each author gave readings from their published works, followed by an open mic. Those present were diverse in many ways, brought together by a love of poetry. The more outspoken members encouraged the more timid to get up and read, and the poems varied in content from gutters to guts, from fathers to funerals.

Rock Canyon Poets holds its workshop every month, with a separate open mic. They also aim to collaborate with the community. Two poets from Rock Canyon, Jack Garcia and Aaron Gates, based particular, a semi-annual LGBTQ+ literary journal. “Their founders are also Rock Canyon poets, so we collaborate a lot,” says Hopkinson. “They’re having their night out [at Pioneer Book] …and he packs the whole place. Taken together, it feels like the Rock Canyon Poets are about people supporting other people and their respective creative endeavors — about community and appreciating this raw, beautiful world together.

Rock Canyon Poets hosts an open mic night the second Tuesday of each month and a poetry workshop each fall. The two hold on book of pioneers in Provo. You can go to rockcanyonpoets.com for more information.

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