Utah Poetry – PoetFlow – SLUG Magazine
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 yell— “burn for the ancient celestial connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”
Every week in the Lighthouse Lounge on historic “Two-Bit” 25th Street in Ogden, a group of people gather to read poetry and hear others do the same. Completely inclusive and welcoming for all people, PoetFlow was started by Janica Johnstun, who had never shared his writings publicly before. “I was in a very dangerous relationship when I moved here,” Janica says, “and I needed a reason to live — a reason to leave something outside of me.”
PoetFlow was first organized two years ago when Johnstun, along with his cousin Kase Johnstun, imagined it as a night of words. “It took a lot of bravery because I didn’t know anyone here,” says Janica. She had just divorced and moved back to Ogden after moving to the United States with a military spouse. “I didn’t have a support system,” she says. “I took the idea of Lighthouse Lounge, and Julia [Hoehn] said, ‘When do you want to start?’ “
Pre-registration is not required for a PoetFlow reading, and beginners are welcome. All genres and styles are encouraged. There is no judgment or criticism, though participants often encourage each other, particularly when a difficult emotional burden is laid bare or when someone delivers a particularly rousing recital. Drinks and food are available from Headlight, and some attend just to watch and listen. In one reading, topics ranged from sex and civility to politics and mass shootings – in other words, everything one might have to avoid talking about when dining with estranged relatives.
Over the past two years, many have found PoetFlow a haven: a place to share intimate things in a public setting as a sort of therapy. Janica says most regular writers have shared things they haven’t shared with anyone else before. Some poets find community, connection and healing through the spoken word, while others come for entertainment or fun. The Readings shares space with the adjoining pub, so the environment is far from tranquil. Many a person present for “the game” might be inclined to wander around, beer in hand, to see someone gesturing wildly above the live microphone, instinctively piqued the curiosity of passers-by. People hear the applause and want to see what’s going on.
Looking at PoetFlow, it feels like they have it, that indefinable thing – the essence that sends electricity through the bones and static electricity to the fingertips, something real in an increasingly counterfeit world.
PoetFlow takes place every Tuesday evening at Lighthouse Lounge. Admission is free and all are welcome to share poetry or watch and listen. Learn more about facebook.com/poetflowogden.
Editor’s Note: The quote at the end of the second paragraph previously misquoted Johnstun for quoting someone else. It now correctly attributes the quote to Julie Hoehn.