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How do poets see Davis? Buy the book and count the ways

Allegra Silberstein, Davis' poet laureate, proudly displays "Entering," the Davis Poetry Book Project. Contributors to the book will read their work at a celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | December 08, 2011 |

Check it out

Who: Allegra Silberstein and contributing poets

What: Reading their work published in “Entering,” the Davis Poetry Book Project

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.

How much: Admission is free, books cost $15

What started as a dream is becoming a reality for Davis Poet Laureate Allegra Silberstein.

“When I applied for poet laureate, they asked, ‘What are some things you’re thinking of doing if you’re appointed?’ ” said Silberstein, who was inspired by a Sacramento poet laureate collection about the capital city.

“I thought Davis should have a poetry book. It’s through poetry we enter the soul of the city, which is also part of the name of the book.”

In April, a small announcement appeared in The Davis Enterprise asking for submissions of poems about the city by current or past Davis residents. On Saturday, Silberstein will unveil the fruits of those labors, at 7 p.m. at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.

Copies of the book, titled “Entering,” will be available for purchase there for $15. Local authors will have the chance to read their own poems.

“I really think it would be a lovely thing for people to buy for the holidays,” Silberstein said.

There was a slight drizzle of poems in the early spring, and then she was flooded with nearly 200 poems. Her early idea of a 60-page collection ballooned to 100 pages, including photos by Katy Brown from around the city. Brown’s photo of the old adobe train station is the cover art.

“I tend to think poetry and photography are joined at the hip,” Brown said. “I take pictures to remember what things looked like to write a poem about it.”

Once all the entries arrived, Silberstein had the daunting task of reading and choosing the poems to be published.

“It’s hard to put into words (the final criteria),” she said. “In part, it’s a sense of connection to the city, but it’s also something felt from the heart and sometimes it’s just the unique language of the poet.

“It was the really hard part of the work,” she added. “There were some that had something that made me say ‘yes’ to it because it spoke to you. Others you said ‘no,’ and sometimes there was a ‘maybe.’ ”

She shared the duties with Andy Jones, a lecturer in the UC Davis University Writing Program who hosts the Davis Poetry Night Reading series, and Danyen Powell, a Sacramento poet and workshop leader.

“We read them ‘blind'; we didn’t know who had written what,” Jones said. “It wasn’t difficult for me to say ‘no’ because at the end it was Allegra’s choice.”

Of the nearly 200 submissions, 86 were selected — none by Silberstein, who wanted to save room for other poets. The poems are as varied as the people of Davis. There are long poems and a “gorgeous” one-liner, according to the poet laureate. The youngest poet is 6 years old and the elder statesman comes in at 101.

“Most of the poems are just about the poet’s relation to the city,” Silberstein said.

After all the selections were made, it didn’t get any easier for Silberstein, who then had to figure out publishing and formatting. She received help from Lauren Swift, who communicated with the poets, organized the poems and prepared the layout for publication.

“What this book does is pull together the unique voices of a community in order to speak about the very nature of a place,” Swift said. “Poetry, in its own powerful way, can often state truths more succinctly and with more impact than simple prose can.”

Also helping with the project were Briony Gylgayton, Carrie Dyer and Mark Deamer at The Printer.

As her journey through the process reaches a close this weekend, Silberstein will be able to rest easier at night. Partly because she will no longer be reading and working into the wee hours of the morning and partly because she accomplished her goal.

“It has in part been the fulfillment of a dream,” she said. “And it’s giving a gift to the people and city of Davis.”

— Reach Kim Orendor at korendor@davisenterprise.net

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