For 50 days in September and October, more than 200 poets will traverse the country, hitting 50 cities and performing in such unlikely settings as the Space Needle in Seattle, the Naval Academy in Maryland, and Neurolux in Boise. It's the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour--sort of the poetic version of the Rolling Stones tour.
Two Boise poets will participate for a short portion of the tour. Janet Holmes and Martin Corless-Smith, both creative writing teachers at Boise State and laudable poets, will read at the Neurolux in Boise on September 7, when the Poetry Bus Tour finally arrives.
The tour is the brainchild of Joshua Beckman, one of the editors at Wave Books in Seattle, and his colleague Matthew Zapruder--both of whom will be participating poets as well. They aim to expand the popular idea of what poetry means and where it belongs. Monica Fambrough, marketing director at Wave Books, says, "The audience for poetry is larger and more diverse than is commonly thought. Wave Books is interested in shaking up the general perception of poetry."
Corless-Smith thinks Boise is a logical choice for a tour stop. "Boise has an increasingly vibrant scene with open mic events, slams and student organized readings at Satchel's," he says. "We have the best reading series in the country at Boise State." His friendship and previous connections with Beckman, who was a distinguished writer in residence at Boise State a few years ago, also helped put Boise on the poetry tour's map. He hopes having the reading at the Neurolux and having beer available will help draw in people who might not normally attend readings on campus, and then maybe they'll decide it's so much fun, they'll attend campus poetry readings, too.
Holmes agrees that there's increasing interest in poetry on the part of the general public, "but in a very narrow swath of poetry. It's great when an event like this can introduce folks to kinds of poetry they aren't used to reading, as well as to the individual voices of poets."
In a twist of marketing generosity, Wave Books has not excluded poets from other presses. In fact, many poets on the tour are not published by Wave Books, and some poets aren't published at all. As you might expect, many of the participating poets have day jobs. While Holmes and Corless-Smith work in the field of poetry and writing, other authors work as an astrologer, software engineer, nurse, organic farmer, a farrier--that's a person who shoes horses--stay-at-home-dad, one who works for a quantitative trading firm, and even a past presidential candidate (who ran as an "openly-female" write-in candidate in 1992).
Part of the motivation for poets to tour with the Poetry Bus is the interaction with an audience--the performance aspect of poetry. These poets see the art form as active and lively, not something that should be confined to academia. On the contrary, poets from academia are pleased to see poetry taken to the streets, the natural history museums, the prisons, the bars and the schools of the nation. For the poets, it's also "an act of community with other poets that I wouldn't miss for anything," says Holmes. "The poetry world can be very fractious." She sees the tour as an antidote to that.
Poetry Bus Tour hits the Neurolux on Sept. 7, from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are free; a donation is suggested. Because alcohol will be sold, the event is open only to those over 21. College and high school students will have to get their poetry fix elsewhere.