Phoenix Poetry Series keeps downtown Phoenix beat scene ablaze at {9} The Gallery

Every final Friday of the month, the berets and black sweaters come out in full force at {9} The Gallery as the Phoenix Poetry Series hosts a poetry night that is helping Phoenix's poetry scene get stronger.

Phoenix Poetry Series is one of the few organizations keeping the spirit of poetry alive in the downtown Phoenix scene. Founded in 2008 by Nadine Lockhart and Rosemarie Dombrowski at First Friday, the series had humble beginnings.

"I used to stand on the corner of Roosevelt and Fifth Street and sell copies of my independent poetry journal called 'Merge,' " Dombrowski said. 

It was one of these nights, as Dombrowski peddled copies of her poetry among the bustle of artists and patrons that Lockhart approached her.

"We started talking about starting a poetry scene in downtown Phoenix because it was something that was lacking and something (we) were interested in reviving," she said.

Since then the series has been going strong, featuring live music and two poets as the usual structure. It jumped around from coffee shop to coffee shop in the downtown Phoenix area, until finally settling on {9} The Gallery.

"For two years we've been at {9} Gallery on Grand (Avenue) which is kind of our home now," Dombrowski said. 'We love it over there." 

Although Dombrowski has a busy schedule as a lecturer at ASU and poetry editor for Four Chambers Press, she said she believes in the importance of keeping the poetry scene active.

The most recent reading on Friday was Beat-inspired and featured young poets from a group Dombrowski leads called the Downtown Poetry Workshop. 

"There's a lot of Beat poetry and a large variety of Beat poetry," Dombrowski said. "It's not just Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl.' I felt like it was necessary for them to read a greater variety of work in order to find something that was closer to their voice or could inspire them."

The event typically features a musical guest that helps set the tone of the event and keeps the audience entertained.

The Mike Pfister Project was this month's guest and the eponymous frontman stressed the importance of jazz music on the Beats.

"It gets back to the history of the Beat poets and how jazz music had a direct influence on their work," he said. "They were approaching their work the same way as the music they were listening to at the jazz clubs in New York."

Ian Murdock runs the Writer's Room, a sketch comedy club that takes place at The Firehouse Gallery, and preformed at the event. During his performance he mixed his skills of comedy with a killer impersonation of Charles Bukowski, taking imaginary swigs from a bottle throughout his reading.

"I usually don't participate in poetry, unless it's a joke," he said, like a true comedian.

English senior Jonathan Kistner completely kept his cool before the performance.

"I get a thrill being in front of people like this," he said.

As everyone returned to their seats and Dombrowski introduced each one of the poets in turn to read two poems, all of the nerves and tension vanished. Each poet gave a slamming performance, building off the energy of the backing band. 

The poetry scene is thriving downtown and the Phoenix Poetry Series is playing a large part in it's continuation. How fitting that the night was Beat themed, especially since the statement Dombrowski made about these '50s poets was just as relevant to the young poets of the night:

"It was poetry that spawned a whole social revolution."


Reach the reporter at lsaether@asu.edu or follow @looooogaaan on Twitter.

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