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Tucson's poets come out in force this weekend

By Nate Byerley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 2, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Among the poets performing at the Tucson Poetry Crawl this year are from left: Debra White, David Mitchell, William Pitt Root, Margaret Stanley and Pam Uschuk.

Authorities say that Arizona is having one of the worst droughts in 30 years, but poets wouldn't know it; words have been flowing here like water. In the last three weeks, Arizona has hosted the 1999 International Book Fair in Flagstaff, the 17th annual Tucson Poetry Festival and come this Saturday, the third annual Tucson Poetry Crawl.

The Poetry Crawl is akin to a traveling circus, except that instead of the entertainment moving to find the audience, the audience ambles their way through downtown Tucson in search of the entertainers. The Crawl, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Third Stone (500 N. Fourth Ave.), includes all the requisite freaks, including Evan Dain and his Dixieland strain; Nervous Duane, purveyor of deep-down Louisiana blues; and the fire-spinning crew known as Flam-Chen (which translated means: "Yes, I am quite aware that my hair's on fire"), not to mention the poets.

Over 40 local poets will spill their literary juices at the six venues to which the Crawl travels. It works like this: As soon as the poets at The Third Stone finish their work, Evan Dain will get his groove on, signaling all interested parties to follow him to the Aroma Cafe, just two blocks south on Fourth Avenue. Poets will read for a while, music will begin again, and you're off to Hotel Congress, the Ronstadt Bus Station, the bar IB6UB9 (winner of "tackiest acronym" contest) and the Youth Storefront. A reception will follow at 11 p.m. at the modest Gateway Villas bed and breakfast at 228 N. Fourth Ave.

Tucson Poetry Crawl

The Tucson Poetry Crawl kicks off at the Third Stone, 500 N. Fourth Avenue, tomorrow night at 6:30 with live music by Delta Blues. Readings by over 40 poets begin at 7 p.m., moving from venue to venue: first the Aroma Cafe, 356 N. Fourth Ave. (7:45 p.m.), then Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress (8:30 p.m.), the Ronstadt Transit Center, Sixth Avenue and Congress (9:10), Club IB6-UB9, 256 E. Congress (9:35), and finally the Youth Storefront, Broadway and Arizona Ave. (10:10). Afterwards, at 11 p.m., there will a closing event, the "Crawlception" at the Gateway Villas Bed and Breakfast at 228 N. Fourth Avenue, featuring beer from Nimbus Brewing. All events are free.
Amidst this carnival of words, the savvy listener will be able to pick out the voices of poets like UA student Jessica Jaramillo, Rita Magdalena, Tucson Poet editor Deborah White, David Mitchell, Pima college instructor and "thoroughbred handicapper" Jefferson Carter and the "Infamous" Scott Stanley, not to mention Tucson's premier poet laureate William "Whereas" Pitt "Therefore" Root. Also on the ticket are poets Pam Uschuk, Oliver John, and winner of this year's Tucson poetry slam, Sharon Preiss.

"These poets are all selected," said Scott Stanley, poet and one of the coordinators of the Crawl, "but they're also volunteers, because nobody's getting paid. It's a form of the draft," he jokes.

The Poetry Crawl, now in its third year, has not changed significantly, except in terms of its size. Stanley and others, however, still tend to look back on the origination of the event.

"The Poetry Crawl started when a semi-trailer carrying refrigerator poetry magnets hit a van-load of poets and the magnets spewed all over I-10," said Stanley. "All of the poets were knocked unconscious, including some of the poets who will read in this year's Poetry Crawl," he added, with no hint of sarcasm. "The driver was the only one conscious. He ended up crawling to Jake's - or is it Jenk's? Well, as it turns out, his throat was slashed, and the only thing he had left were poetry magnets, which he used to spell out 'need help.' The rest is history, and the Poetry Crawl has been dedicated to this history and the truck driver, whose name is Richard Tavanner."

One of the nicest aspects of the Poetry Crawl is the fact that it is a free, come-at-will, leave when bored, return when drunk kind of affair. The no-cost appeal is thanks to a number of local sponsors, including the Tucson Weekly, Native Cafe, the Book Stop, Fine Print Books, Nimbus Brewing, KXCI, Brooklyn Pizza, Gateway Villas, the Tucson Arts District Partnership, Borders Books and the UA Poetry Center. At the final stop of the crawl, the Youth Storefront, books and publications by the authors will be available, as well as limited edition posters from last year's Crawl, which will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Donations and purchases will benefit the Tucson Poetry Fund, which helps raise money for poetry related events, education and scholarships in Tucson.

"We haven't given out any scholarships yet," says Stanley, "but we're going to."

So, if you're looking for something to do tomorrow night, either show up at 6:30 at The Third Stone, or wander aimlessly with your ears perked for poetry. Either way, you're bound to be impressed.