Poetry Crashers | Not your average poetry reading

The Poetry Crashers, from left, are Shawn Odyssey, Rhi Jenerate, Alex Henderson, Miranda Culp, Chris Olander, Julie Valin and Shellee Sepko.

What is a poetry crash and who are the Poetry Crashers? Julie Valin and Nevada County Poet Laureate Chris Olander are founding members of the Poetry Crashers, a group of entertainers that offer a unique and uplifting twist on traditional poetry readings.

Poetry Crashers
June 12 | 7 p.m.
Truckee Philosophy

I sat down with Olander and poet Karen Terrey of Tangled Roots Writing at the Pour House in downtown Truckee shortly after Olander was named the Nevada County Poet Laureate. He was both honored and excited about his role. The program was inaugurated at Sierra Poetry Festival in 2017 through the Nevada County Arts Council.

“We have national and state poet laureates,” says Terrey, who explains that the county poet laureate program brings it to a local level. “It strengthens the role of poetry and art in our community at a time when we really need it. And it connects the community through poetry and art, and connects people through other forms of communication.”

Olander is a poet and bio-educator and has taught with California Poets in the Schools for 35 years. He blends performance techniques with spoken word to create what he calls, Action Art Poetry, a form of poetry that arises from the oral and bardic traditions. Olander carries the Poet Laureate torch following Molly Fisk’s two-year tenure. He will fill the role as the ambassador of poetry in the county. This includes hosting events like Poetry Crashers, developing projects to boost community involvement with poetry and creating educational programs.

Valin, Olander, poet Rhi Jenerate and a group of other poets began performing together at the art walks in downtown Nevada City. The group became the Poetry Crashers. Member Shawn Oydessy is a musician, author, poet and theater performer with the group. He wanted to play music when the poets gathered and brought a unique element to poetry readings.

Julie Valin at a poetry reading.

“The show came together organically. We are seven poets that perform together. We are a diverse group,” explains Valin. “Chris Olander is an amazing performance poet. He taught me who to be up on stage and has been a poetry mentor to me.” Other members include Alex Henderson, Miranda Culp and Shellee Sepko.

The Poetry Crashers show is entitled “It’s All Our Fault” (a play on the Beck song “Nobody’s Fault But My Own”). The show features poetry, music and song and is an exploration of loss, love and mirth. It is both uplifting and heart wrenching.

For people that have never been to poetry reading, the show is truly unique. It is not your average poetry reading. The goal of the Poetry Crasher events is to make poetry fun, accessible, inclusive and memorable. It’s a poetry variety show that evokes all manner of emotion, from joy to sadness to laughter. The group wants to extend poetry’s reach by bringing poetry to common, yet unlikely places, like Truckee Philosophy.

If my conversation with Valin is any indication of what will be revealed during their show, my guess is there will be a lot of laughter, enthusiastic revelry with a dash of positivity all coming straight from the heart for an experiential poetry extravaganza. See the Poetry Crashers on June 12 at 7 p.m. at Truckee Philosophy. | The Poetry Crashers on Facebook


Owl Ink
By Julie Valin

The attention to detail
he gives to my back
is so painstaking, it buzzes.
My shoulder blades
are the most sensitive;
I flinch when he traces
the wings.
The moon hangs
in the center, cool
midnight blue.
The eyes: two Mexican pinwheels
of orange and purple.
Red bleeds
the most, dotting
my spine in tears
of feathers.
The branch
of my grandmother’s initials
holds it all up –
as it always will –
until it’s just
a part of my bones.

Right Before He Goes
By Julie Valin | For Todd

“Off he goes with his perfectly unkept hope . . .” –Pearl Jam
The California sun is out,
but there is a chill in the wind.
We walk along the last trail
and a breath gets caught
in my chest.
He notices the dead Madrone,
how they form a beautiful forest
of their own, their branches
like an art installation
of arms reaching
in all directions.
He will be going
south, and east, maybe anywhere,
and I will be right here.
We don’t talk about that, though,
how life will be
in the place I will remain
with so many traces of him;
how I will go through my days
trying to gather any reminder
to build upon
before these, too, fade like his taillights
as he crosses one state line after another:
lilac, beer bottle labels,
words he said
that made me laugh, quarters
for the jukebox . . .
How impossible the task is
for the one who stays.
This isn’t about love,
the romantic kind,
it’s about a connection
not easily found
in the harsh every days of this world.
We walk, full of anticipation,
as if it is the day before
a limb is to be amputated—
we miss it already.
But we walk on,
enjoying it
while we still have