Vandercooked Poetry Nights celebrate the intersection of art and writing

If athletics and poetry seem like strange bedfellows, then you haven’t read Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s sports desk columns for The Best American Poetry blog. “Two days later it still feels awfully good to think about that game,” she wrote after the 2010 Super Bowl (New Orleans won). “And yet, like the jambalaya I made on Sunday, time makes everything deeper and a bit more complicated.” Could a non-poet have written so eloquently of football and a Cajun rice dish? Maybe. Probably not.

Calvocoressi also served as a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and authored two poetry collections, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart and Apocalyptic Swing. And while the latter was inspired by her combined loves of baseball and jazz, it’s the mashup of poetry reading and printmaking that brings Calvocoressi to Asheville on Saturday, Feb. 7. She’ll take part in Asheville BookWorks‘ triannual Vandercooked Poetry Night.

The series, hosted by Asheville BookWorks founder/director Laurie Corral and poet Landon Godfrey, takes its name from the Vandercook press. Using that piece of equipment, the local art books studio produces a broadside — a posterlike sheet printed on one side only. Historically the broadside “was an announcement that would be posted on tavern walls,” says Corral. “It’s how you got the news.”

“The limited edition letterpress broadsides highlight different printing methods, from traditional hand-set lead type to contemporary techniques like using photopolymer plates for deep impressions,” says the Asheville BookWorks website.

These days the process is being used widely again, “in terms of the word, poem and imagery arranged on one page together,” says Corral. “It’s becoming a hot item that people want to collect.” Asheville BookWorks has produced seven so far — the broadside from each Vandercooked event is a poem by that evening’s featured poet. Local artist Jessica White, founder of Ladies of Letterpress, has been tapped to create a design around one of Calvocoressi’s poems. Attendees to multiple Vandercooked nights can build a collection of the letterpress broadsides. The events, says Corral, “increase the public’s access to printing history, poetry and art ownership.”

The print takes some time, and it’s a break-even venture rather than a moneymaker. But it underscores the intersection of the local arts and writing communities. “There’s so much visual imagery in poetry, but it doesn’t always necessarily translate to an illustration,” says Corral. “The imagery may allude to an emotion that we can express through abstract images or color. We consider all of these things when we come up with a broadside.”

That, and poets love to have their work printed — an aspect of the event that makes it even more appealing to the writers who are invited to share their words. Godfrey books the poets, and while she casts a wide net, most of the featured readers have some connection to Asheville. Award-winning, North Carolina-native poet Tony Hoagland gave a reading to a full house in October.

Upcoming Vandercooked Poetry Nights include Matthew Olzmann on Saturday, April 25, and Sebastian Matthews on Saturday, Oct. 3.

WHO: Gabrielle Calvocoressi reading at Vandercooked Poetry Night
WHERE: Asheville BookWorks, ashevillebookworks.com
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. Free reading/print is $5 at the event and $20 after that evening

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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