Bits 'n' Pieces: Poetry family built on words

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If you go

What: Ghost Town Poetry Volume Two release party and open mic.

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 13.

Where: Cover to Cover Books, 6300 N.E. St. James Road, Suite 104B, Vancouver.

Information: www.printedmattervancouver.com

On the Web

Ghost Town Poetry

Clark County Arts Commission’s Poet Laureate Christopher Luna

Clark County's reigning poet laureate invites all to help him smash the perception that poetry is stodgy.

Christopher Luna created the Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic series 10 years ago with a goal of nurturing a supportive community of local writers and readers. That mission drives him to this day as he and co-host Toni Partington continue to celebrate all things word at the "LGBTQ-friendly, all ages and uncensored" poetry performances every month at Vancouver's Cover to Cover Books. At their next open mic Feb. 13, the hosts will celebrate the release of the second Ghost Town Poetry anthology, a compilation of works from poets who have stepped up to their microphone in the past decade.

"We have a belief that poetry can make a difference in people's lives," Luna said. "There are a lot of opportunities to teach people what's useful and fun and relevant about poetry."

The latest Ghost Town collection, released by the pair's own small publishing company, Printed Matter Vancouver, comes a few years after the first volume. With poems with names such as "Crack Mom Blues," "Sunrise" and "Ghost Whores," the selections from nearly 70 regional authors are as varied in content and style as the book's namesake open mics.

"The reason both books exist is to reflect the community-building work we're doing," Luna said.

The Clark County Arts Commission in 2013 named Luna the county's first poet laureate, a designation that comes with the responsibility of being a cultural ambassador for the art form. His and Partington's poems are featured in the book.

A few people present at the very first Ghost Town Open Mic in 2004, back when it was held at Ice Cream Renaissance, are still involved and included in the book. Three of those longtimers are the Loranger family, mother Lori and teenagers Jake and Zoe, who each have a poem in the latest collection. Jake and Zoe have been fearlessly taking the Ghost Town stage since they were little kids, Luna said.

"Family has always been a part of it," Luna said.

Open mics tend to be mostly "poets reading to poets," but Luna said Ghost Town has grown in recent years to become much more than poetry practice. Many now come not to perform, he said, but to be entertained.

"We've been getting more and more people who just want to sit and listen and enjoy," Luna said.-- Stover E. Harger III

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.