Oct. 28th UNM-Valencia Literary Reading Review

Wednesday night met us with a brief but powerful literary reading hosted by Patricia Gillikin and Justin Bendell. We heard poetry and literature from a passionate group which included the likes of Kristian Macaron, Julia Brennen, Tyra Belle Lechner, Maxine Peseke, and Matthew Brown. Hosted on Zoom Webinar, this reading felt true to the speaker-audience dynamic that we are used to with literary readings. This reading lacked the exchange of community energy that would otherwise be present, however as Patricia Gillikin pointed out, there is beauty in the audience interacting with the readers via writing in chat. In that respect, the hosts were still able to foster an atmosphere for open dialog between audience members and readers alike.

The night earnestly contemplated feelings of uncertainty we all face as the rollercoaster year of 2020 heads towards its winter season. Themes of trauma, desire for escapism, black beauty, racial tensions, god, and everyday harsh realities stood out heavily during Wednesday night’s reading. To say that I was blown away by the passion and visceral imagery of the literature would be an understatement; at times I felt my mouth plop open and eyebrows raise at the starkness of each piercing piece of work. As the night progressed, each poem/piece of literature brought a powerful perspective to that of the previous. Imagery of bright gas station signs, pre-apocalypse life, looking hate in the face, and working with populations experiencing homelessness painted a vivid and all too real picture of my own community. In many ways, my own hopelessness and uncertainty was reflected back to me through the night’s literature, as I found myself experiencing a much-needed emotional release. Matthew Brown wrapped up the night well, touching on the underlying sense of urgency we all relate to as election day nears, “There isn’t room to discriminate when there’s no room at all”. At times, it does feel like there is no room at all. With all the pain and precariousness we find ourselves wrapped up in, I am glad that Patricia Gillikin and Justin Bendell provided a space for our emotions to collapse into literature.

If you are interested in learning more about Patricia and Justin’s work, head over to their Facebook pages and be sure to check out the amazing featured writers along the way!



Review of Mindwell Poetry Featuring Kat Heatherington

Mindwell Poetry’s The Poet Speaks series featuring Kat Heatherington was all but your average poetry reading. Though it’s been a while since I’ve indulged in a live in-person poetry reading, the zoom format invites a different kind of intimacy, whether comfortable or a little too personal. But in the words of host Zach Kluckman, Mindwell Poetry is a space for creatives to celebrate recovery, resilience and to destroy stigma in a community setting; and that is exactly what Friday nights reading delivered on. We began with a discussion about how everyone has been coping with the “Mad Max movie come true” that is our reality, and about the importance of vulnerability and storytelling in times like these. This discussion led us into the open mic portion of the night, where two main themes formed rather naturally through the voices of our open mic poets: rage and motherhood. Our poets helped us imagine how rage and the celebration of motherhood shape our perception of our current reality, and how in some cases the two are inseparable. We explored the silent thoughts and fears of mothers, the desire to feel, self-destruction, machismo, and I.C.E detainment centers among other themes. Between each poem, we were invited to share our feelings and thoughts, which ended up feeling more like a chat with old friends than anything.

After discussing rage and motherhood, Kat Heatherington introduced a more somber tone to the night with readings from her recent book The Heart is a Muscle. Throughout Heatherington’s divulgence into topics of loneliness, community living, reflection on family, friendship, and love, and class struggle, I noticed one theme in particular that stuck out: connectivity to nature. Heatherington defines her poetry as ‘stunning transitional moments’, and rightfully so. Not only does she take us through scenes of serene flowers, the harvesting of herbs and crops, and the toils of her childhood home in the rugged desert, but she also entices us to envision what it means to explore ourselves in relation to the physical world around us. Kat brought tears to our eyes as she closed with The Bones of this Land, a poem about her relationship to her father and returning to her childhood home in the wake of his passing. Holding the full attention of the virtual room, she left us to ponder a phenomenon I believe to be quite universal to us all, “nothing had changed except us, everything had changed except us”.

If you are interested in watching Friday nights Mindwell Poetry reading, head over to https://www.facebook.com/mindwellpoetry/videos/820621608689335/

And if you’re interested in checking out The Heart is a Muscle and Kat Heatherington’s other publications, you can find them on Amazon or at https://harvestmoonbooks.com/?category=Poetry

Review contributed by Amanda Rose Garcia.

Amanda Rose García is a third year student at the University of New Mexico studying Spanish and Chicana/o Studies. She enjoys challenging her perspective on the world and exploring what it means to live, learn, and love through her passions of reading, writing, poetry, and music. 

Wednesday Night Poetry Review – 9/2

Yesterday’s Virtual Wednesday Night Poetry, hosted by poet/author Kai Coggin, introduced us to the theme of Heroes. This theme invites us to break down our walls and open ourselves up to vulnerability during times that plague us with pain, fear, sickness, loneliness, civil and racial unrest, and growing political tension. Volume 25 of WNP welcomed us with the likes of Bay Area poet/author Kelly Grace Thomas, award-winning Tennessee poet BornToWrite the Poet – otherwise known as Lydia Cook, Alabama poet/author Charlotte Pence, and Austin poet/author Allyson Whipple.  

Kai Coggin opened the night with a call of praise to the black woman – with the mention of Breonna Taylor – taking us out of poetic trance to remind us of the raw reality of this country’s racial dynamic. Passing the mic off to BornToWrite the Poet, we are invited on the journey of discovering what it means to be a hero in Love and Revolution, as the world casts a harsh and judgmental eye on the lived experiences of black women. Charlotte Pence offers us the perspective of what it looks like to be a hero whilst coping with illness and facing mortality. Kelly Grace Thomas then beckons us to question how we can be heroes to our own bodies and the desire to be heroes for those in our lives on the receiving end of racism and xenophobia. Closing with Allyson Whipple, we reminisce on the having, losing, and hiding of love, as well as finding strength and wisdom in the mundane.

With the virtual format, what would normally feel like the poet speaking to the audience now feels much more personal. We are brought into the sacred space of each poet as we explore not just poetry, but the release of what weighs heavy on the mind as we collectively experience the traumas of this country and world through our screens. A connection like this is necessary for communal healing, however awkward and difficult it may be to navigate a virtual set up. I appreciate getting to curate my own sacred space with the help of the amazing featured poets. Regardless, I can’t help but feel disappointed that I must partake whilst locked inside my apartment; but am grateful that Kai Coggin has done the work to make WNP as accessible as reality permits.

If you’re interested in checking out WNP, head on over to https://www.facebook.com/WednesdayNightPoetry, and don’t hesitate to check out all the amazing featured artists while you’re there.