Whistle Pig hosts poetry | PostIndependent.com

Whistle Pig hosts poetry

Melinda Rice

It’s poetry night Friday at the Whistle Pig Cafe in Rifle, with readings from two western slope poets and an open mic for aspiring writers.

Former teacher Melinda Rice of Parachute will share selections from her recent chapbook “Sea Fever” beginning at 7 p.m., and Colorado Mesa University professor and former Rifle resident Jennifer Hancock will share her work, as well.

Those who attend are asked to make a purchase of food or beverage, and books will be available for purchase.

Rice was raised in California and lived in Alaska for several years, so the ocean theme in her book isn’t as out of place as it seems. In her new landlocked home, it becomes a collection about longing.

“Poetry is a way to sort through your thoughts,” she observed. “The poem takes you on a journey and you hope to end up with some new insight yourself as well as for the reader.”

She met Jennifer through the Mesa County Library’s monthly reading event and is glad to have a poetry venue closer to home.

“I thoroughly enjoy sharing things that I’ve written,” she said. “Rifle, I feel, is kind of having its own little renaissance.”

Hancock, meanwhile, is at the center of a vibrant poetic community in Grand Junction.

“We have an identity here on the Western Slope,” she observed. “The poets that I work with in the Mesa County Library group are very interested in place and identity. You cannot drive up to the top of the Monument or do Crag Crest and not be affected by all of this space.”

Even so, her work also bears the stamp of the ocean, this time through her childhood in hurricane lashed coastal Texas, with a seasoning of ’70s Cold War fear.

“The theme of apocalypse and natural disaster run through my work,” she observed. “I’ve come to understand that it’s not the big disasters that are truly to be feared, it’s the little ones.”

“Here’s two women who write about other places, but love this place where we’ve landed,” she added.

The event also serves as a reboot for Down Valley Voices, a monthly poetry group that has been without a venue since July.

“A lot of poets didn’t have a platform,” said founder Brittany Rose, who came to the area to teach about a year ago. “For me it was just a way to meet people in the community and share my poetry, but it grew into a quite a tight-knit family.”

Rose encourages folks who don’t write their own work to recite something that inspires them. Either way, it should be memorized or on paper rather than read off a screen.

The group maintains a presence on both Facebook and YouTube, and doesn’t seem to mind that folks don’t expect such an organization in Rifle.

“I think this is a way to disrupt that stigma,” Rose said. “There’s artists and writers down here. If you don’t believe it, come check us out.”

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