The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The poetic side of City College

Hip-hop artist and poet Random Abiladeze performs March 10 for the crowd during the Reading Lab open house. Photo by Robert Paul.
Hip-hop artist and poet Random Abiladeze performs March 10 for the crowd during the Reading Lab open house. Photo by Robert Paul.

Instructors contribute to the local poetry scene on and off campus

Matthew Gerring | Staff Writer
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For a city often maligned for its lack of distinction and excitement, Sacramento has a large, vibrant, and growing poetry scene.

In fact, Sacramento is home to a number of nationally recognized poets, as well as a number of small presses that publish everything from one-sheet broadsides to whole anthologies of poetry. Plus there are poetry readings almost every night.

Jan Haag, published poet and journalism professor at City College, says it’s simply inevitable.

“It’s a large metro area. Whenever you get enough people together, poetry happens,” she says.

Haag has one book published called “Companion Spirit” through LAMP press, the publishing arm of a group called Sutterwriters, which Haag is involved in. According to Haag, Sutterwriters aims to use writing as a mode of healing. Sutterwriters was discontinued in 2007, but there are still 9 groups operating under its name.

City College faculty plays a big role in promoting and nurturing the local poetry scene. Haag credits the Sacramento Poetry Center organizers and City College adjunct professors Bob Stanley and Tim Kahl for a lot of the recent growth in the local culture.

“They’re really working hard to make sure poetry is accessible,” Haag says. “I think outreach has gotten better.”

Stanley and Kahl helped organize the Sacramento Poetry Center’s annual conference this year, which took place April 3 and 4. According to Kahl, about 100 people showed up and attended the various workshops and readings offered over the weekend, which is three times last year’s attendance a record for the SPC.

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According to Kahl, the organizers focused on getting nationally known poets as opposed to focusing on local poets.

“We wanted to get more than the usual suspects at the conference,” Kahl says.
The SPC has other things to celebrate as well — the SPC Press published its first book, an anthology of current and former poet laureates called “Sometimes In The Open,” compiled and edited by Stanley. His own book, “Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger,” will be published later this year by Sacramento’s Rattlesnake Press.

Everyone agrees that Sacramento’s diversity contributes a lot of energy, and even tension, to the scene.

In the poetry community, there is a split between the traditional leanings of the SPC and newer, performance based poetry.

One performance enthusiast is City College instructor Angela Alforque, who teaches an Ethnic Theatre Workshop class at City College. The group performs music, choreography, theatre, and poetry in venues around town.

Alforque also writes and performs poetry herself, and has been published in a few pocket-sized chapbooks. Her poetry emphasizes

“It’s immediate, it’s live, and it’s something that can never be repeated.
That part is exciting to me,” Alforque says. Of all the readings around town, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe was the most mentioned reading among City College poets.

“You never know what to expect — anything goes,” says Alforque.

Our resident poets all had similar advice for aspiring student poets — read broadly and deeply, expose yourself to as many different styles and authors as possible, and always work on refining your craft.

“A poet has to go through and sharpen things,” Stanley says. “You need to be able to both be a free spirit, and a little bit of a stickler.”

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