New digs, new voices 

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I’m always happy to discover new places to hang out and to hear new voices, so Friday’s poetry reading at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company (615 Virginia Avenue) that featured Brett Elizabeth Jenkins and Christopher Newgent was a treat. Calvin Fletcher’s features plush seating, books to make the mind hum, and a selection of original works for sale, including pottery, messenger bags, and photography by local artists. I was especially taken by a basket of community knitting whose yarn was provided by the nearby Mass Ave Knit Shop (862 Virginia Avenue). The surroundings were homey and it was keen to be in a place that donates its profits to the Fletcher Place neighborhood and organizations throughout the city. I only had apple juice while I was there, but it was nice to know I helped someone a little bit.

Both poets shared great stuff. Newgent shared work from his forthcoming manuscript The Lion and the Lamb. “The Lioness” offered up “I talk to you. I hear back heartbeats and oceans. I wonder if you’re ever coming back.” He read a few poems about war and shared “we moved simply in awe of what we could do” and “in pictures of war, there are always children.” The innocence in “…my son sleeps beneath a tree like a caption” made me smile and I loved his description of winter as “…the world a wet silhouette swallowed in the belly of a ghost.” Jenkins made the crowd laugh from the start when she read a poem about the job skills she possessed: “I can probably hold a lot of spatulas at once.” Much of her work, like Newgent’s, was quite touching; from “Woe is Me and You,” “Woe is how you move your hips” and the entirety of “December 21st, 2002”: "It’s said it takes seven years / to grow completely new skin cells. / To think, this year I will grow / into a body you never will / have touched.” I really liked all of her work but “in my dreams, I build arks to carry us away” was especially lovely.

Jenkins has work forthcoming in Pank and decomP. Newgent runs Vouched Books, which supports and promote small press literature. (I noticed Andrew Scott’s Modern Love among his works.) Between the nonprofit coffeehouse with the comfy seating and the new voices, I think I tapped into something pretty great.

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