PoetFlow celebrates one-year anniversary as haven for Ogden artists

Friday , September 09, 2016 - 5:00 AM3 comments

DOUG GIBSON, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — While live music is a staple at the Lighthouse Lounge on 25th Street, a different art form has found a haven there over the last year — poetry.

At 7 p.m. Tuesdays, art lovers are invited to read their work to others at PoetFlow. Those who partake mostly share poems, but event co-founder Janica Johnstun said each week is different — some people express themselves through spoken word, some through guitar.

PoetFlow’s latest gathering Tuesday, Sept. 6, was a big night. It was the event’s one-year anniversary, which attracted almost 40 people. Usually, a crowd of 12 to 15 gathers on a good night, reading work at the mic and listening from the venue’s chairs, stools and couches.

Kase Johnstun, a local writer and advocate for the arts, united with his cousin Janica to start PoetFlow. From the beginning, its goal was simple: to make sure poets and listeners had a place to gather each week.

The key to growing weekly attendance was to make sure participants felt welcome, Kase said. He said the bar atmosphere has contributed to that — it’s less intimidating than readings at universities, for example.

On Tuesday night, poetry was read until about 9:30 p.m. Janica, who Kase described as the heart of PoetFlow, stood near the mic, frequently offering hugs to artists before and after readings. She grew up in Ogden, but moved away after marrying a military member. After her marriage ended, she returned home.

“The artistic explosion here, that’s why I stayed,” Janica said. She’s been at the Lighthouse every Tuesday since PoetFlow started, with just a few exceptions. Christina Miller, who’s from Ogden, is another one of the event’s mainstays. 

“I try to write two new poems a week,” Miller said.

Even though she doesn’t have a writing background, Miller said PoetFlow provides a place where she feels safe sharing her work.

Janica, who also took a turn at the mic at the anniversary event, said that’s why PoetFlow was created. 

FROM 21 TO 70

A mix of people turned out for the event Tuesday night, ranging in age from 21 to 70. Weber State University students were there, as well as professors. Local artists and business owners attended, too. 

“I usually come to observe,” said Amir Jackson, who started the local nonprofit Nurture the Creative Mind. 

The work read Tuesday touched on an array of topics: being alone, letting go, parenting children, inner strength, dealing with abusive parents, expression of sexuality and more. One poet even entertained the crowd with an original poem about the sexual prowess of a fairy tale character.

While many read original work at the weekly gatherings, some choose to share writing by others that inspires them. 

A PLACE FOR RAW, UNPOLISHED WORK

Patrick Ramsay, a Weber State University student, is already gaining acclaim as a poet. He won the Ogden Pride Festival’s poetry competition this summer, and on Tuesday, he read two poems: a short, amusing one about bathing as a child and a longer, somber piece about the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Ramsay isn’t a regular at PoetFlow, but he appreciates its goal. He said it’s a place for authenticity — a place where people can express a piece of themselves. 

There’s an energy at PoetFlow that isn’t as stifling as readings in academic environments. “There’s not the expectations,” Ramsay said. “It can be as raw, as unpolished as you want.”

Kase also said part of the reason he loves PoetFlow is because it’s a safe place to be, read and share. Most of the people who end up reading their work haven’t done so in front of an audience before, he said.

The group keeps growing, he said, and it even has a podcast. Occasionally, prominent regional poets — like Logan City poet laureate Star Coulbrooke — visit the group. 

Boosting attendance is a goal, but Kase said he also hopes PoetFlow sprouts the creation of other groups for writers. In the meantime, the weekly event will continue to be a safe space for aspiring artists.

“It’s all about consistency,” he said. “They know there will be a place for them every Tuesday at Lighthouse Lounge.”

Reporter Doug Gibson can be reached at dgibson@standard.net. You can also like him on Twitter at @PoliticalSurf or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/douggibsonSE/. 

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