If you’re not baring your heart to a special someone this Valentine’s Day, why not bare your soul to a room full of strangers?
The University of Utah’s free Coffeehouse Series Erotic Poetry Night falls on Feb. 14 this year. The date is merely a coincidence, according to organizer and chairperson Gheeta Smith, not a response to the holiday.
“Our last Erotic Poetry Night was in November,” says Smith. “It’s really up to the poets and audience whether this will be a way to top off the day of love.”
The idea for an erotic poetry night developed after Smith and two other Coffeehouse Series board members attended the 2001 National Poetry Slam in Seattle. “There was an erotic poetry showcase one of the evenings that sort of spawned the erotic poetry event here at the U,” Smith says. “Honestly, I must tip my hat to last year’s chair, Paul Story, for having the guts to try something like this on campus. Before we even returned to Salt Lake, we’d already bounced around the idea and decided we should at least give it a try.”
The response for the first erotic poetry night last year was encouraging. In fact, it was one of the most popular campus-sponsored events of 2001, according to Smith. “The only one more popular was our Women’s Month event in March.”
In addition, last year’s first erotic poetry event was up against stiff competition—including a U2 concert and a symphony performance. “But we had a great turnout and everyone who showed up had a great time,” she said.
So what exactly qualifies as erotic poetry? Is this an evening of Pablo Neruda-like subtle notions of sensuality, or an open invitation for ribald limericks of the “Man from Nantucket” variety?
“Ideally, you’ll be able to expect a little of everything,” Smith hints. “Since I’m hosting the event, I’ll warn you that there won’t be much censorship unless it’s done by the poets themselves. Take that however you please. Just remember that not all erotic poetry is hot and steamy.”
Being a campus event, the poetry night naturally attracts students as its primary participants. But fear not, would-be bards of the erotic cloth not enrolled in a higher-learning institution: This event is for everyone.
“It’s hard to anticipate [who will attend] from event to event,” Smith notes. “During this season, we’ve had a pretty nice cross-section of the local poetry community show up. We market most directly to the campus community, but in order for our events to be successful, it’s nice to have members of the community at large attend as well. It’s a rather laid-back event, whether you’re reading your poetry or just absorbing the atmosphere.”
Although last year’s event featured a National Slam poet by the name of Brotha’ Cazze, this particular night is decidedly focused on showcasing local talent.
“We hope to see people from other slam/coffeehouse/open-mic venues show up to this, as well as some new and old faces,” Smith explains. “Thus, we never know what to expect at the beginning of the night, but it always ends up being a fun time in the end. The majority of our readers just sign up for the open-mic segment, the length of which also varies from night to night. There will also be music by local artist Anke Summerhill at this event.”
As for first-time poets, Smith assures that everyone who has ever read or performed has had a “first time.” And the audience is especially encouraging to first-timers. “Remember, practice, practice, practice! But more importantly don’t forget to breathe and have fun,” Smith says.
Finally, what does one wear to an erotic poetry night? Is a stop at the Blue Boutique in order to give your potential audience the full effect of your erotic prose? “The atmosphere is rather laid back,” Smith says. “Wear whatever you like. And don’t worry, we won’t turn you away if you’re in costume.”