Gulo Gulo Poetry puts private world of written word into spotlight

Graham Shapley

As the summer sun came to rest below the mountains, a small group of poets, writers and songwriters took to public performance for a small crowd at the Gulo Gulo Poetry Open Mic

Gulo Gulo is the scientific name for a wolverine, and, justly, the open mic took place at Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House, a local cafe, bar and publishing house. 

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Wolverine Farm is a hotspot for creative work, playing host to events involving writing, crafting and other endeavors. Many of their events play with the same idea as Gulo Gulo, taking a typically solitary hobby and transforming it into a communal event.

“Writing’s such a personal thing, and you kinda get caught up in being by yourself,” said Thomas Ivory Jr., who initially pitched the idea to Wolverine Farm and played master of ceremonies to the night’s events. “Being able to share that and being part of the community is amazing.”

The benefits of taking such a hobby into the public’s spotlight are powerful. At Gulo Gulo, poets and writers are given a chance to get their prose and poetry out into the air and the event spurs on an unprecedented amount of openness and reflection that would not have occurred otherwise.

If I can share my story, if I can have a little bit of courage, get up there and share it, and there’s someone in the audience or who reads it that can identify with the struggle, then there can be a type of shared healing.” –Ryan Lanham

For some, this openness was part of a process in coping with and healing from trauma.

“I did it the opposite way first,” said Ryan Lanham, a writer who read prose about his childhood experiences and returning from military service. “The bottling and suppressing of who I am and my experiences.”

Lanham said that when he started to accrue trauma from my childhood and the war, he stuffed it down until it reached a breaking point in 2011 when he tried to kill myself.

“When that didn’t work, I asked for help and took the opposite approach, which was whatever it took to heal,” Lanham said. “I started writing about it, doing regular therapy and group therapy, and realized there was so much healing in sharing.”

Lanham expressed a desire to help others as part of his own path to better mental health.

“If I can share my story, if I can have a little bit of courage, get up there and share it, and there’s someone in the audience or who reads it that can identify with the struggle, then there can be a type of shared healing,” Lanham said.

Topics covered included musings on childhood and parentage or simply the beauty of the natural world. Readers would perform their poetry or written prose or even raise their voices in song. The unpredictability of what was coming next was a big draw to the event.

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“There are all kinds of mediums for all kinds of people,” said Cori Storb, a writer who works to set up other events at Wolverine Farm and was in the midst of searching through her writing notebook to pick out a piece to read. “Usually, people are more prepared.”

Wolverine Farm is holding a fundraiser throughout August to help mitigate the costs of operation and keep the business running for years to come.

“(An event like this) takes that public desire,” Ivory said. “We could be up there talking to no-one, but having an audience creates that engagement.”

Although Fort Collins hosts other poetry events, not all of them are intended as open spaces. Fort Collins restaurant Avogadro’s Number hosts a monthly poetry slam known as “Slamogadro,” but as a poetry slam, a more competitive version of poetry, they aren’t for everybody.

“That’s groovy and all, but there is a format to (slams),” Ivory said. “The audience comes to them specifically for that kind of format. Having an open mic leaves it open to more abstraction. You get the guy who sings, you get the person who does haikus. Whatever their voice is. Here it’s more about community building.”

Gulo Gulo Poetry Open Mic takes place at Wolverine Farm on the third Wednesday of each month from 7-9 p.m. To prepare, writers can sit down and write something an hour before the event begins.

Collegian reporter Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham