“Green & Black’s Organic”
by Michele Burkey
The salt in my chocolate reminds me of a sharp
flavor I once had, about a man
and his dirty name calling.
Words that numb the tongue, leaving
my eyes painted with regret, which I said I’d
Between teaching at Waldorf on the Roaring Fork and raising four kids, Michele Burkey somehow finds time for poetry.
Burkey, 34, hails from Spokane, Washington and is going on two years in the Roaring Fork Valley.
While she dabbles in pastel drawings and hand crafts, her primary creative outlet is through the local “poetry brothel”, which brings spoken word events to the Valley.
As the brothel prepared its first Carbondale event, she took a moment to talk about the wonder of words.
Post Independent: How did you get into poetry?
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Michele Burkey : I went back to school. I thought I was going to get into nonfiction, but I took a creative class with this amazing poet, Laura Read, and I realized I was a poet.
PI: How would you define your style?
MB: It’s sort of free verse, confessional type poetry.
When I first started writing it, my professor compared it to people like Sharon Olds and Sylvia Plath, who wrote about the everyday life of women.
PI: How did you get involved with in the local poetry scene?
MB: It’s the kind of thing I’ve done in other places I’ve lived. As soon as I moved to town, I met with Wade Newsom, and he told me about Alya and the brothel.
PI: What is the poetry brothel?
MB: It’s hilarious. Ayla takes the language of what you think of a brothel and turns it around.
You can buy pillow talk, which is basically a poem that you pay for — for yourself or someone else — and then later you’re supposed be laying down and they read it to you over the phone or something.
It’s really fun. It’s a different way to do a poetry night that really engages the audience. There’s also an open mic.
PI: Had you dealt in spoken word poetry before?
MB: I did open mics in Spokane. The universities all have lots of poetry things happening. Then I moved to Bellingham for a while and helped start a women’s writing group.
PI: How do you overcome the idea that poetry is stuffy or dull?
MB: I think it’s about leaving what you learned in high school and moving more into free verse.
Going to an open mic is a really great way because you see that people are writing and speaking about what’s going on all around us.
PI: Do you feel like spoken word takes a back seat to the visual arts here?
MB: I think that less people show up. There’s not a lot going on that way down valley. That’s just how it is here — it’s not like a college town.
PI: Is it worth it, anyway?
MB: I think it’s really important, no matter where you are, to keep your art with you and find a way.
People need an avenue like this. If you’re interested in poetry, just try it. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
PI: What would advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into poetry?
MB: I would encourage them to start with a basic prompt, which you can find online.
You can turn a page of writing into a poem by just cutting out words. So much of it is about the unsaid. You’ll also find things you didn’t know were there.
Writing poems is for yourself, and sharing them with other people helps you get to know yourself better.
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