What Is The Poetry Circus?


The Poetry Circus

Want to know more about the Poetry Circus? Step inside my closet and I’ll tell you all about 1. what to wear 2. hair 3. rain 4. light 5. sound


Final Call for the Poetry Piñata: If you have poems to share with children at The Poetry Circus please send them to nicellecdavis @ gmail . com

A Free Poetry Event Saturday, February 28th


Poetry Merry-Go-Round Rides
with readings by:Lauren K. Alleyne, Laurel Ann Bogen, Chiwan Choi,

Brendan Constantine, Nicelle Davis, Kim Dower, Blas Falconer, Kate Gale, Melanie Jeffrey, Douglas Kearney, Ron Koertge,
Justin Wallace Kibbe, Suzanne Lummis, Katie Manning,

Eric Morago, Jacqueline Tchakalian, and Yvonne de la Vega.

Interactive poetry projects, activities, and crafts for the whole family brought to you by the Red Hen Press WITS program
and The Los Angeles Review.

Make your own maracas and Join The Children’s Poetry Parade ed by twirler Peggy Dobreer!

Simultaneous Poetry Writing based on your suggestions from RENT Poet and the Melrose Poetry Bureau!

Live circus acts including performances by Post Mortem Movement Theater!

At the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
4730 Crystal Springs Drive,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-3051

The Poetry Circus Needs a Poetry Piñata: A New Year for the Living Poetry Project


This is a Free Event hosted by

IN THE CIRCUS OF YOU: An Illustrated Novel-in-Poem by poet Nicelle Davis and artist Cheryl Gross


Poetry Merry-Go-Round, Circus Acts, Kid Crafts, and Magic Shows

Poetry Merry-Go-Round Rides with Readings by:

Lauren K. Alleyne, Laurel Ann Bogen, Chiwan Choi, Brendan Constantine, Michael Datcher, Nicelle Davis, Kim Dower, Blas Falconer, Kate Gale, Mira Gonzalez, Melanie Jeffrey, Douglas Kearney, Justin Wallace Kibbe, Suzanne Lummis, Katie Manning, Eric Morago, and Jacqueline Tchakalian.

Interactive Poetry Projects,

activities, and crafts for the whole family brought to you by the Red Hen Press WITS program and The Los Angeles Review.

Live Circus Acts

including performances by Post Mortem Movement Theater!


At the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

4730 Crystal Springs Drive,

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 665-3051


Please Runaway to the Circus with Us!


If you can’t runaway; let your poems come with us!

Please send your poems to The Living Poetry Project

to go into this kid-sized Poetry Piñata

that will be broken open at The Poetry Circus!

Please submit your poems by Feb 15th to:

nicellecdavis @ gmail . com



Three Poetry Readings in Two Days: Would love to murder, paint, and glitter you!

photo 32 This weekend (September 27-28) I have the privilege of giving three radically different readings at three different locations in Los Angeles. Three readings in two days  is notably a bit much– poor planning, maybe–a constant nearly narcotic need to always be with poetry, certainly. I can only hope to see friends and loved ones as well as poetry lovers at each event.

I like events; I like gatherings. I believe people are made human through experiences with other humans.

I get to run this poetry-read-a-thon with my son. To him, I’m sure it will feel like a form of slow torture–but he will be with words; I can only hope that words will eventually woo him as they did me as a child. I can hope. He will have my friend Debra to keep him company; even if he doesn’t entirely appreciate poetry when he grows up, I know he will be grateful that he had some of the most beautiful and smart babysitters during this mad poetry life. Please come see us. Please come play poetry with us. Here is a little about each event: Hand2

Event #1: Saturday 9/27, 4:30

WeHo Reads Noir: West Hollywood Library (625 N. San Vicente Blvd.) 

Edge of Town. POETRY. With a Noir. Touch. (4:30-5:15)
Take a ride with a group of bold poets who take us to the dark side…where
poetry isn’t always pretty!
 Michael Datcher (“Raising Fences”)
 Nicelle Davis (“Becoming Judas”)
 Suzanne Lummis (“Open 24 Hours”)
 Kim Dower (“Slice of Moon”)
 Charles Harper Webb (“What Things Are Made Of”)

When the amazing poet Kim Dower invited me to participate in the WeHo Read Noir event, I couldn’t say no. Noir isn’t just an art, its a way of life that I’m constantly falling into and chasing after. I was surprised when my son and his friends asked me “what is noir?” Well, what is noir? I had to ask myself. “Its shades of grey,” I told them, “its ambiguity.” “Huh?” the team of 5 to 10 year-olds responded. “Ok,” I said, “take these detective glasses, hats, shovel–take this bottle of fake blood–and lets look for clues to “who done it.” We all took turns being blamed for some part of a murder–because we are all part of the larger story–we all have blood on our hands.

We had fun being our own noir story; I’d like to continue this fun with you at the WeHo Reads Noir Event. I found all the stuff we need for murder; please come get bloody with me. Murderstuff

Event #2: Saturday, 9/27 6:30 PM

LAR @ Bergamont Station:

LAR_Logo_Web Building Bridges Art Exchange, Bergamont Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave. Unit F2, Santa Monica, CA 90404 This will most certainly prove to me my favorite reading. I won’t be voicing my own work, but reading selections from the upcoming LA Review issue. I love this journal, as I love all of Red Hen’s eggs. Bergamont Station is at the heart of art. It is beauty layered with more beauty. Please do not miss this event!

Join Red Hen Press for a special collaboration of poetry and contemporary art at the Bergamot Station Arts Center. Established in 2005, Building Bridges Art Exchange is dedicated to the promotion of national and international contemporary artists, providing a variety of international art exchanges, artist residencies and workshop programs. They will be joining together with Red Hen for the month of September to present poetry readings immersed in the artwork and exhibitions themselves. A portion of the proceeds from artwork provided by Jacqueline Tchakalian and Thom Dower will go towards our outreach program, Writing in the Schools. Gallery opening reception: Saturday, September 6th from 6-9:30 PM Poetry Readings: Saturday, September 13th: Laurel Ann Bogen, Jacqueline Tchakalian, Helene Cardona, John Fitzgerald Friday, September 19th: Kate Gale, Kim Dower, Brendan Constantine Saturday, September 27th: Los Angeles Review reading featuring BH James, Nicelle Davis, Michael Allen Loruss, Michael Cooper, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo All reading events are free and begin at 6:30 PM. On-going exhibitions and artwork from: Thom Dower Jacqueline Tchakalian Shadow Portraits by Rachel X Hobreigh Deep Transparencies: A Hidden Universe by Petra Eiko Feminine Mystique/Treasures from the 21st Century by Barbara Fritsche, Michael Kluch, Tanya Ragir, Mary Cheung, Larry Schuster Building Bridges Art Exchange Bergamot Station Arts Center 2525 Michigan Ave, Unit F2 Santa Monica, CA 90404 Co-sponsored by Red Hen Press and Building Bridges Art Exchange For more info, click here: http://redhen.org/events/rhp-at-building-bridges/

art hand

Event #3: Saturday 9/28 7:00 PM


bookstore1 The Last Bookstore is the most magical place on earth. I plan on bringing a circus with me to celebrate this fantastic place. I can not tell you what a dream space this is; you must see it to believe it. Please, please go to this event. We need you. We really do. Every circus is only as magical as those who are there to see the magic. 453 S. SPRING ST, GROUND FLOOR DOWNTOWN LA  |  213.488.0599

Photo by Jason Hughes
Photo by Jason Hughes

Sunday, September 28th, 7pm: The Last Bookstore is pleased to welcome Kate Gale, with her new collection of poetry, Echo Light. She is joined by Red Hen authors Brendan Constantine & Nicelle Davis. Kate Gale is the Managing Editor of Red Hen Press and Editor of The Los Angeles Review. She teaches in Low Residency MFA programs around the country and serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation and Poetry Society of America. Kate is the author six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis which premiered in October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Her latest poetry collections are The Goldilocks Zone and Echo Light. She is also the editor of several anthologies and blogs for Huffington Post.

 Brendan Constantine is a poet based in Hollywood. His work has appeared in numerous journals, most notably Ploughshares, FIELD, Zyzzyva, Ninth Letter, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, ArtLife, PANK, and L.A. Times Best Seller, The Underground Guide to Los Angeles. His first book, Letters To Guns (Red Hen Press 2009), is now required reading in creative writing programs across the nation. His most recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (WriteBloody Publishing 2011) and Calamity Joe (Red Hen Press 2012). He has had work commissioned by the Getty Museum and he has received grants from the James Irvine Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. He is currently poet in residence at the Windward School and adjunct professor at Antioch University. In addition, he regularly offers classes in hospitals, prisons, shelters, and with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.  

Originally from Utah, Nicelle Davis now resides in Lancaster, California, with her son, J.J. Becoming Judas is her second book. Her first book, Circe, is available from Lowbrow Press. Her third collection, In the Circus of You, will be released by Rose Metal Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, The New York Quarterly, PANK, SLAB Magazine, Two Review, and others. You can read her e-chapbooks at Gold Wake Press and Whale Sound. She is the director of the Living Poetry Project. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees’ Knees Blog and is an assistant poetry editor for Connotation Press and The Los Angeles Review. She has taught poetry at Youth for Positive Change, an organization that promotes success for youth in secondary schools, and with Volunteers ofAmerica in their Homeless Youth Center. She currently teaches at Antelope Valley


 with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.
with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.

AWP. AWP. What to say about AWP? It leaves us all spinning. If you haven’t left a piece of you sanity in the assigned city, you haven’t really been to AWP. This year I left crazy umbrellas wherever I could. In retrospect, I wished I had brought more umbrellas, more poetry. It is always an issue of more with AWP. 30 umbrellas are swallowed quickly by 10,000 writers. Being swallowed is a good way to describe AWP.

 photo 1

This year I convinced a few of my writing students (the very talented Trish Donahueto and Andrea Thamm) to attend. They fought with themselves over time and money spent—it’s just a conference, they objected when I described the whirl of energy, lack of sleep, and the effect that three miles of books has on a word lover. Eventually they resigned to go (maybe just to shush me up for a moment). I was delighted when we eventually crossed paths. They could no longer blink. You tried to tell us, they said. Yes, I can try but there is no way to describe what it is about this event that allows for—I am going to say it—transformation.

 photo 2-3 photo 3-1

The transformation is never expected; in fact the best way to attend AWP is with zero expectations. It is never the same; what you hate one year you may love the next. Some people walk away with the full recognition that life is larger than words. Some fade deeper into the folds of imagination. All is good, even if it feels like hell.

photo 2-4

In our own AWP troupe there was a trip to the E.R. due to exhaustion. I heard feet where broken on the giant escaladers and I witnessed several first time attendees break into spontaneous tears. Had I not been saved by Jason Cook and Maggie Hess (with their magical cup of coffee and hot crêpes) I may have entirely lost my mind in Seattle. I wish I was joking. No. This is no joke. This is AWP. But it’s not. Not really. I mean, it’s just a conference. Right?

 photo 3

Okay, it’s a conference. But I don’t know of any other conference where a person’s ethics, desires, and ideas (/ bodies) are pushed to a breaking point. If you’re lucky, this four day conference strips you to your most primal self. It gives you permission to be what you want—a writer. Even more profound, it reveals who you are—the reason you write. Such epiphanies are not easy to weather.

photo 2
I find it extremely important to keep your friends close when traveling in the storms of desire. I love my Red Hen Press / LAR Family. I love the Pie Bar and karaoke nights; I love feeling like a posse of book slingers. I am extremely proud of Kate Gale, whose new book The Goldilocks Zone launched at this year’s AWP.

photo 2-5

I was also proud of my URC family. My UCR sister Alexis Vergalla organized a reading on a glass bottom boat that included a city race. (What?) Yes. So good. photo 3-2In an ideal world, we would all return home with three solid days to dream away the after-blur of being with 10,000+ people. It isn’t the size of the event, nor the scope, it is the whirling descent of having to face off with what and who we are.


There is more to be said, shared, posted about all of this. Yes. I am hopeful that those of you who received umbrellas will send me photos of where the words traveled. I would love to mail umbrellas to those who wanted the extra shelter but couldn’t find it.

There is more out there…so much more. I am deeply grateful for this–this something more. Love, gratitude, and most importantly poetry to all.


From Tarzan to John Carter, Poetry is on the Move

For me, living in Southern California requires a lot of direction—Map Quest is my best friend.  In a way, having to map my way through life makes every commute an adventure.  Maps are one of the many things I love about Southern California.

This particular adventure took me to Woodland Hills where Stanley A. Galloway (a Living Poetry Project contributor) was giving a lecture on Tarzan. This was the centennial year for the creation of Tarzan (and John Carter), which had the Edgar Rice Burroughs fans in a frenzy.

It was nice to see a group of people IN LOVE with books. It was fantastic to deliver Stanley’s poem in person.

Again, I found poetry leading me towards a new (even unexpected) friendship; it was a real gift to meet Stanley—to link words with their word-crafter.

(For those of you who have requested your magnet poem, please be patient. I’m saving up postage money now in hopes that I’ll have your poems to you before November.)


The following weekend, J.J. and I traveled to Mark and Kate’s house for a slumber party. We planted flowers, fed chickens, hugged bunnies, and the list of magic continues. To my delight, my Burroughs adventure continued as we watched Disney’s John Carter. (What are the chances?  Two weekends of Burroughs—I’m starting to feel haunted.)

Kate and Mark are very good and kind people. They are nice to my son; that is a great gift to my family. They are good to books–devoting their lives to Red Hen Press; this is a great giflt to the world.

While J.J. and I planted flowers, we also planted a few poems. I think Mark and Kate’s yard is the perfect place for poems to grow.

Living Poetry Project Part 21: Safe is an Abstract Term

I Want To Make You Safe by Amy King is anything but safe, though it uses every cliché in the book to help guide the reader through aspects of feminism, mortality, war, self, and love. Familiar phrases are not enough to shelter readers from the emotional impact of this book.  This book is scary.

While reading this collection, I could hear a voice behind the refrains of hearts, stars, and other abstractions screaming THERE IS A REAL HUMAN IN HERE. I wanted to get past the words to find this person–save this person–only to find that this book is the collective voice of our generation–which is beyond any one person’s effort to save.

To celebrate this collection, I made a poetry artifact out of a stanza that has haunted my head for months. The stanza comes from the poem “Some Pink In Your Color,” and reads:

I can’t imagine the heart anymore

now that it presses my ribs apart,

a balloon of such gravity I ache for stars in a jar,

wasps whose love reminds me of fireflies tonight.

This is a book of poems that insists that poetry matters; its poems have the power of a general’s speech for a non-apocalyptic future. A war on war is in this book.

Like a message needed but hard to hear, I had to read this collection three times before I could come to terms with it—to come to love it.

I brought my “stars in jars” with a “balloon” heart to share the work of Amy King at the Geffen Playhouse, Red Hen Press reading. (The reading had an all-star lineup which included Katharine Coles (who is an amazing person and poet), Dana Gioia (poetry’s hero), and the epic David Mason. (All poets whose work I want to spend more time with–all poets who  make poetry matter).

I was delighted that my little poetry objects resembled both a harmless present and a scandalous drug drop–much like I Want To Make You Safe, which comforts as it confronts.

The Living Poetry Project: Part Nine

Empty. That’s what I have right now—a whole lot of empty.

I really wanted to hear Kate Gale read at Ellis Martin Gallery this Wednesday, because I like her. She is kind, strong, and tough in all the ways I wish to be. I wanted to go, but right now gasoline is expensive. I wanted to go, but my car said, no go. My car has been saying this a lot lately, making me feel like a complete failure at being an adult.

Whatever it is, it is never enough. I am never enough. This emptiness is depressing, however when I take a step back, blur my eyes a bit, my life looks rather beautiful. I couldn’t get to Kate’s reading, but I own two of her poetry collections. Also, lately I’ve had lots of time to read. (Time is one of the beauties of not having any work.)

My favorite poem by Kate Gale is Tundra Races. It begins with,

Poetry is a place

where, when madness occurs

nobody notices;

Ah, I love these line breaks—the idea of poetry as place given as a complete thought—the imagination having a moment to imagine what that place must look like—we get to play with the idea of poetry taking up residence on islands or mountains. But wait, there’s more! The following line lands on the preposition where and that jewel of a comma that allows for the word to sound both as statement and question. The second line continues with, when madness occurs, allowing the poem and reader to give pause at their own absurdity for making little imaginary houses for words to live. The stanza only continues to stretch with possibility, as it ends with, nobody notices. How sad—how hopeful—that two-word line leaves the stanza. The poem continues with:

or if they do
it’s called genius.
It’s one of the reasons

I’m so comfortable with poetry.
Other art forms require sanity,
at least in short bursts.

Painting allows for certain
lapses, but only poetry
can be wildly

careening from its kinetic purpose
gyrating in its own orbit
yet produce awe

in critics willing to stare
at the naked poet
bloody cold on the tundra

call to each other
from one borough to the next
how brilliant

the texture
the threads of meaning
the overall pattern of color and light.

The poet knows;
Ah, he or she knows.
Bloody cold, we whisper.

Bloody cold. Cold. Cold is real. I like that. I like texture, threads, and overall patterns of color and light. These are things that make pleasure surface from the murk of daily worries. I don’t have much, but Kate Gale reminds me what I have is worth a day’s wages paid in the joy of living.

The domestic is made sublime by Kate Gale’s poetry; to honor this, I made a hundred copies of selected poems from her collections, Fishers of Men and Mating Season and left them in grocery stores, beauty supply shops, and other temples of the perfected adult lifestyle.