Parkersburg Poetry Series reading set for tonight

PARKERSBURG — This evening from 6-8 p.m., The Daily Grind at 619 Market St. in downtown Parkersburg will play host to the Fall 2017 Parkersburg Poetry Series event featuring readings by acclaimed poets Savannah Sipple, Ace Boggess and Elizabeth Savage.

The event is free and open to the public.

Savannah Sipple, a native of east Kentucky, is an associate professor of English at Hazard Community and Technical College as well as the co-owner of Lexington’s newest independent bookshop, Brier Books. She will kick off the event by reading from her forthcoming poetry collection, “WWJD & Other Poems.” The collection has garnered widespread praise for the way it explores and re-imagines the relationship between religion and LGBTQ issues in Appalachia, according to a press release.

Sipple said that while Appalachian culture is frequently depicted as centering on strong matriarchal figures, women are rarely treated as equals and religious patriarchy is often used to justify various forms of oppression. “Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse occur at alarming rates in the region, especially against women and those who identify as LGBTQ,” Sipple says.

Sipple, who came out at the age of 31, hopes that her new collection of poetry will help raise people’s awareness of the many forms of violence they inflict on one another, the landscape, and themselves with their words and everyday interactions. “WWJD & Other Poems” is also about giving voice to the experience of queer, rural Appalachians who are struggling to embrace their identities in a place and culture that can often be hostile toward them, Sipple said.

Poet and novelist Ace Boggess, a graduate of West Virginia University Law School, will be reading from his latest poetry collection, “Ultra Deep Field.” The Charleston native’s third collection is composed of poems written during his last year in lock-up, his year on parole, and his first year of freedom. The poems reflect his journey from the smallness of inmate life to the seeming vastness of the world beyond, according to a press release.

In his work, Boggess candidly discusses the many years he spent addicted to opiates as well as the years that passed between rehab, prison, and parole.

“The same emotional and psychological issues that led me to drugs — crippling, lifelong social anxiety — led me to writing at about the same time in my life,” Boggess says. “Both took away some part of that horror for me.”

Boggess felt that writing and addiction were like shields protecting him. “For a long time, the two were linked in my mind. It was my time in the penitentiary that helped me develop my writing without the drugs involved. So, in that regard, prison was sort of necessary. I wouldn’t say poetry keeps me sober now, but I’d say it helps me be less afraid, maybe a little less anxious.”

The third poet featured at tonight’s reading is award-winning Fairmont State University professor Elizabeth Savage. Her limited-edition chapbook, “Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers,” was recently published by Furniture Press. The chapbook was inspired by a poem of the same title and represents Savage’s attempt to inhabit the Wallace Stevens poem, which deals with the process of human perception and the rendering of order from chaos.

Savage, who has served as poetry editor for “Kestrel: A Journal of Literature & Art” since 2008, holds a Ph.D. from Duquesne University and is the author of the poetry collections Grammar (2012) and Idylliad (2015).

Poets in the area are encouraged to come and sign up at The Daily Grind to participate in the open mic segment of the evening. There will be a sign-up sheet near the entrance. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the readings start at 6:15 p.m. Light refreshments will be served, and the featured poets will have books available for purchase.

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