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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Creative writers have a place to share their words

By Kathryn Kemp

December 4, 2006 | Creative writers from the USU campus and the Logan community have found a place to meet together and share their work. Whether reading an original poem, short story or a chapter from a novel, at Helicon West people, never get the same the twice.

“It’s quite entertaining to see the different forms of literature that come up there,” said Cyndi Harmon, a sophomore majoring in English who regularly attends.

Helicon West is a poetry reading started by Michael Sowder and Star Coulbrooke in the English Department. The name came from an ancient Greek mountain range called Helicon that was said to be the home of the Muses, who inspire creative work. Because of our own mountain range to the west, Sowder and Coulbrooke found it fitting to use the title Helicon West.

Held in the attic of Citrus and Sage, a small gift shop and espresso bar at 130 N. 100 East, participants gather to share their writing and listen to the work of others. As an open forum, anyone from students to professors to community members is able to share.

“There’s no separation,” Harmon said.

Just like any other attic, this one is small but clean, painted white and pale green. The ceiling is shaped like a triangle, taking its shape from the outside roof. A podium and microphone are set up at the front of the room and chairs are lined up all the way to the back.

Every week the chairs are filled, said Coulbrooke. They consistently have about 50 people who come. Many of them are regulars. Others are students who came to get points for a class, and some are people who want to see what it’s all about.

“It’s just exploded,” Coulbrooke said.

As the smell of coffee floats up the stairs and fills the room, each reader is announced, and they try to fit in as many people as possible in an hour. There are no requirements as to what can be read and there is always a combination of some original and some published work.

Last Thursday, one student read a chapter from a novel that he felt was particularly good. A teacher in the English department read a short story she was working on. Several other students read their short stories as well. One girl read a poem called “Zits” all about her experience in high school with bad acne.

“This is my journey through Acutane,” she said.

One man from the community read a piece about a family’s struggle with losing a son to the war. It started out humorous as the narrative changed points of view to get the thoughts of each family member on various subjects as they left for vacation. But gradually the subject became more serious as each attempted to find someone to blame.

All the while, the audience listened intently to each person who shared, providing support and encouragement by showing their interest. Many of these writers tell their life experiences through their work, and Helicon West provides a safe, comfortable creative outlet in which they can share.

“It’s cool because you get to be part of a close-knit community of people that care about the same things that you care about,” Harmon said.

The atmosphere at Citrus and Sage makes it ideal for a poetry reading. The small attic provides a cozy setting where people sip from their giant espresso cups while they listen and the resident cat wanders up the aisle, rubbing his tail against the arm of anyone who dared sit on the end.

“You just don’t get this kind of thing at places like Borders,” Coulbrooke said.

Broadsides, advertising posters that have some of these writers’ work printed on them, can be purchased from Coulbrooke for $3.

Readings are held every second and fourth Thursday at Citrus and Sage at 7 p.m. throughout the semester. The next one will be Dec. 14.



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