Roses are red, violets are blue, if you like poetry, this month is for you.
While April officially marks National Poetry Month, the annual celebration only ups the volume on the underscore of buzz in the downtown Phoenix and Tempe poetry scenes.
Creators come out of the woodwork for a number of readings, workshops and performances, but you’d be sorely mistaken if you think poetry stops at a Rupi Kaur quote or your favorite Shel Silverstein book.
Students, professors and professionals alike are busy crafting compositions that are taking poetry beyond the page and breathing new life into the art scene.
Perhaps no voice is cheering as loudly in downtown Phoenix as Rosemarie Dombrowski’s.
Besides being the city’s official Poet Laureate, Dombrowski divides her time between roles as faculty editor for Write On, Downtown, the editor-in-chief of rinky dink press and a professor at ASU.
For Dombrowski, poetry is an art form that starts change and ignites conversations that people are afraid to have.
“I’m excited for movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too but I gotta tell you, the poets were doing that a long time ago,” she says. “The poets have been unafraid to broach those subjects for a very long time.”
An advocate of all expression, Dombrowski works hard to breathe poetic air from Roosevelt Street to Buckeye Road and everywhere in between.
“Whether you stop and listen on a First Friday or not is not ultimately the sign of success,” she says.
“I think it’s just the fact that poetry’s there; it’s part of the landscape and eventually it’s just going to become a part of the vernacular. I think it already is, so I’m pretty proud of that.”
Through her courses, students take poetry beyond paper, dealing rhymes into the world through mediums like tape poetry — words written on pieces of tape and stuck to street signs or posts — as well as zines, street art and performances.
A familiar face at many Phoenix readings is Anna Flores, 22, a senior English major at ASU, who has taken many of Dombrowski’s courses.
Flores describes her writing as “functional poetry,” extending beyond the arts realm and into communication in the political sphere.
“I think that poetry — or any sort of art — has the ability to talk about these really intimate, privatized issues and take them into the problem solving sphere without dehumanizing them,” Flores says.
Describing her style as factual, well-researched and conscious of that human aspect, Flores’ work tends to deal with border struggles and theory, as well as undocumented and mixed-status family stories, DREAMers and DACA.
The act of creating poetry is brave in itself, she says, and can help the community.
“If you are writing with compassion, if you are writing with any sort of effort, than that piece of work is something to be proud of,” she says.
Between espresso shots and pastries, performers at King Coffee are building a community of their own at Organic Open Mic Poetry on Fridays at 4 p.m.
Poets and singer-songwriters are welcome at the event, which has grown to crowds of 40-plus under the eye of Terran Randolph.
The event draws out all types of stories and perspectives in what Randolph calls a chill and welcoming atmosphere.
“It’s almost like we’re the Jack Kerouacs,” he says. “It’s a new age kind of vibe, it’s culturally diverse… and everybody feels comfortable.”
Randolph is no stranger to the scene, having sponsored slam poetry teams and open mic nights across town. As a poet, he has sold 400,000 copies of his albums and books straight from his backpack, traveling from New York to Portland to Tempe.
It’s the idea of helping younger, developing performers that brings him back time and time again.
“My high is off of seeing younger people and how they write,” he says. “It’s about inspiring them to put their work into chapbooks, inspiring them to record themselves.”
Interested in showing off your chops? Musing creatives need only show up at 4 p.m. sharp, ready to share their stories.
For more from Rosemarie, visit rosemariedombrowski.com.