VALLEJO – April is National Poetry Month, and Vallejo has a bounty of spoken word options for poets and poetry fans to enjoy.
Alibi Bookshop will host a Poetry Festival starting next week, and the long-missed Poetry By the Bay live open mic will return to the Mira Theatre later this month for its second in-person show since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Poetry is really important,” Alibi Bookshop owner Karen Finlay said. “Poetry, I think, got a lot of us through the pandemic, whether we knew it or not. Poetry is lyrics. Poetry is everywhere.”
Finlay credits Vallejo poet and author Jeffrey Kingman for making Alibi Bookshop’s poetry festival happen. “We were talking about how he really wanted to do some poetry stuff and it snowballed into ‘let's just do a poetry festival so we can get as many voices here as possible.’” Finlay said.
Alibi’s opening event on Tuesday is dedicated to the revered Vallejo teacher and poet Barbara Luck, who died at age 70 on March 6. Luck was going to be a participant in the festival.
“Unfortunately she passed away suddenly, so the poetry community is reeling and the Vallejo community is reeling,” Finlay said. Readings by Vallejo’s past and present poet laureates and other celebrated local poets will include some of Luck’s poetry. “We wanted to do something to fill the space where she would have been with her words,” Finlay said.
Middle and high schoolers ages 11 to 18 are invited to take the mic on Thursday. Finlay was inspired to set aside an evening for young people after hosting a Young Authors Press event last year.
“We need to listen to what these kids have to say,” Finlay said. “I want there to be more positive outlets in Vallejo for them.”
On April 20, Alibi will hold an open mic event, hosted by Vallejo Poet Laureate Jeremy Snyder. All are welcome to bring a poem to read and share. On April 27, participants are encouraged to recite a poem by an author they’ve never read before.
The Poetry Festival Grand Finale on April 30 will be hosted by Kingman and showcases three North Bay poets: Laura Walker, Maw Shein Win and Katie Peterson.
Poetry by the Bay will host a live open mic poetry reading on April 26 at its new home at the Mira Theatre. This will be the 15-year-old Vallejo institution’s second live event since the start of the pandemic. Future open mics are planned for the fourth Wednesday of each month.
Kyrah Ayers, Poetry by the Bay founder, said that during the open mic event, “Anyone can share what they have on their heart or what they have on their mind, and they can also just listen to listen and relate to the work of others.”
“Some work is going to be uplifting, some is going to express the problems that they're facing, and both can help us grow,” Ayers said.
Both past and current Vallejo Poet Laureates, D. L. Lang and Jeremy Snyder, honed their craft at Poetry by the Bay.
A full house of both longtime participants and people who had only discovered the event over Zoom during the pandemic turned out for last month’s open mic. The group was diverse.
“It's amazing that it crosses all age and gender and also race to where it feels welcome and comfortable,” Ayers said. “There's no age for art. It's just a necessary outlet for everyone.”
Ayers launched Poetry by the Bay in 2008 with open mic events twice a month at the Panama Red Cafe until the cafe cut back their evening hours in 2013. They moved to The Hub in 2014 until it closed in 2018, then hosted at the Odd Fellows Lodge until the pandemic shutdown of 2020, when they switched to Zoom.
This month, Ayers will hand over the hosting of Poetry by the Bay events to poet, DJ and actor Keith Thompson. The two will work in partnership to ensure that the event continues and plan to add workshops on writing and publishing.
The open mics will move from Mira’s smaller Black Box theater to the full-sized theater if the audience grows, and may also increase to two days per month.
“We’re amped to see the artistic community come together and flourish,” Ayers said. “You’re going to leave inspired every time.”
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Poetry by the Bay
- Mira Theatre
- Alibi Bookshop
- Karen Finlay
- Jeffrey Kingman
- Barbara Luck
- Jeremy Snyder
- Laura Walker
- Maw Shein Win
- Katie Peterson
- Kayrah Ayres
- D.L. Lang
- Panama Red Cafe
- The Hub
- Odd Fellows Lodge
- Keith Thompson
Gretchen Zimmermann started volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios in 2010, launched the Vallejo Arts and Entertainment website in 2014 and creates mixed media sculpture at Mare Island Art Studios.
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