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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Poetry in the Desert, or Mojave in July

“Imagine a heat so dry that it presses down into the earth…” -Mojave in July, A. Brommel p.45


Close your eyes and think of Las Vegas; feel the summer heat come around you, you can hear the tourists, see the bright flashing neon lights this town is known for, and you probably have a limited vision of Las Vegas. When you think of Las Vegas it is hard to separate the trashy, cheesy, formerly mob run town that sparks to life when the sun goes down. "At midnight you can look up at the sky or down towards the lights and be blinded by brilliance. No one told me about the sunsets. No one warned me about monsoon season." -From California, V. Robinson p. 248. The beauty of Las Vegas is found in its desert home, and the beauty of the desert is captured in photographs, and in the work of its poets. On almost any given night of the week you can find yourself amongst local poets at open mics, poetry slams, workshops, ciphers held on the street, and in the homes of Vegas’ poets. "Here in Vegas nothing is old but the mountains silently observing." The Lights of Las Vegas, A. Barnstone p. 268.

Clark: Poetry from Clark, Nevada is an anthology recently published by Zeitgeist Press, which a local imprint with over 100 titles to date. Clark was initiated by Clark County’s first Poet Laureate, Bruce Issacson, and was done cooperatively with Poetry Promise, Inc., currently helmed by Clark County’s second Poet Laureate Vogue Robinson. This anthology is filled with the work of 95 Clark County authors, meaning those from, and those who found a home in, Clark County, Nevada. As with any artistic profession these poets are from a myriad of backgrounds and include educators, street poets, slam poets, high school students, as well as visual artists; Clark also includes the visual work of twelve local artists that enhances the reading of the poetry.

Reading poetry is different than reading a novel, yet they both tell stories. Let Clark tell you a story you’ve never heard and find your way to and through this beautiful desert.

The magical thing about this anthology, aside from its “setting”, "the winds of lasciviousness blow east to west except in Vegas. Everybody knows what happens in places with an oasis." -Chasing The Sun, S. Stewart, p. 234, is that the range of voices is diverse enough to actually give you a true taste of the Valley.

From love poems, "And I want us to go to the park and the day that we go to the park I want to climb to the top of the tallest tree and scream from the top of my lungs I REALLY LIKE THIS WOMAN."- Hope for the Flowers (Thai Food), A. Kenyon, p.4.

To poems that cause you to sit a while and think, "They will find a brown sun baked boy, holding a seashell to his ear, inside is the voice of the poets singing all at once, every poem the world has known from Ode to an Onion to the Illiad. This poem will be there too, but it will all sound like the ocean." -What They Will Find When They Exhume Pablo Neruda's Body, B. Lloyd, p. 1.

Poems that encompass the “Fear and Loathing” vibe Vegas has been known for, "When the guard falls to the floor, blood trickles from a thin crack at the top of his head. This is the start of the mayhem." -How to Kill a Crippled Person in Six Easy Steps (Just Because You Want To) -N. Say, p. 196.

To verses that came out of workshops run in Clark County Community and Cultural Centers "If only the key to happiness could be found in one family. Lately I've been thinking about mankind's finest hours. When other person's beating hearts are put in place of ours."- When Other Persons Beating Hearts Are Put In Place Of Ours, S. Des Lauriers, p. 177

To verses that bring you home, "She has faith in peppermint to soothe the bitterness of parsley. To gather her sons in times of feast and famine; knowing by taste the heirlooms of their heritage, that leafy weed grew hearty where ever it rooted."- tahbouleh, E. Wirshing, p. 167.

Clark even gives you a glimpse into the history of Las Vegas in Dayvid Figler's essay, Au Revoir, Riveria, p. 122.

This anthology took me a while to read; and while I'm hesitant to admit that I'm willing to say that as I went through each page there were some poems I didn't like, that I couldn't relate to, or just didn't understand. That's poetry though. It is a subjective art form used to express the thoughts and emotions of its writer.

“Here, we build urban legends and kill your urban legacies. We still rent the room where John Entwistle overdosed. There is no remembrance left where 2Pac was shot outside of Ellis Island. We crush world tours into a single city block. 3 A.M. view from Sunrise Mountain is breathtaking, partly because you choke on the electric bill, partly because it’s just that fucking beautiful. It is so bright here, we can count the stars.” -Count the Stars, A. Moyer, p.37