Helicon West Featured Readers/Open Readings Series is held every second and fourth Thursday of the month during USU semesters, 7 PM. Helicon West’s current location is the Logan City Library. Creative writers are invited to read up to 7 minutes of their original work. Readings are free and open to the public.
Helicon West provides a regularly-scheduled place and time for members of the writing community to give their work a public voice, with no restrictions on levels of skill and no censorship of ideas or craft. Publication of readers’ work is a main goal.
We work with downtown merchants to find venues with easy accessibility (for parking and public transportation) and an intimate, homey atmosphere, where attendees can purchase drinks and/or books to make our events worthwhile to the business owners.
We seek a reciprocal relationship among university students and faculty, the non-academic community, and the rural and business communities, to give the literary arts more exposure and accessibility and to promote diversity and democracy in the valley.
History of Helicon West
Star Coulbrooke, poetry writing instructor for the Utah State University Department of English, had dreamed for years of starting an open reading series, where students and community members could read their writing to an appreciative audience. In spring 2005, she met with Michael Sowder, a professor of creative writing in the English Department, who had the same dream, and they talked about ways to get something started.
Star worked and found a place to hold the first readings: USU’s University Inn conference rooms, with the help of Ann Marie Wallace, event coordinator at the Inn. (Star and Ann Marie later started Beat Poetry Night beat.slam.uncensored.wordpress.com ) Star and Michael decided on a weekly time-frame. They set up the reading series for spring semester, but then Michael had other obligations come up. They got set for fall, but then Michael realized he had a class at the same time, so Star went ahead without him. She advertised the open microphone readings with his endorsement and invited some student writers. The first event had 11 people. Subsequent readings steadily drew more participants and audience members.
Star and the Helicon West committee continued to hold events through the end of fall semester, 2005, settling on a bi-monthly schedule. We grew out of our meeting room at the University Inn and began searching for a new venue. We wanted a cozy place downtown, preferably where food and beverages were served and where community members could feel welcome.
Star got word that someone had purchased the old Chapter Two Books building, a sweet little bookstore/coffee shop in downtown Logan which had sponsored literary readings in the past. In December 2005, Star spoke with Nancy Weimer, the new owner. She named her business Citrus and Sage, remodeling the former book store only slightly, to create a gift/coffee shop with books to borrow and living-room-style seating. Nancy wanted exactly what we wanted: a place for writers to spotlight their work. We now had a memorable, catchy name and the right atmosphere in which to meet.
In August 2008, Nancy Weimer left the valley to join her husband, Bart, in California, closing the doors of Citrus and Sage. We addressed the issue of finding a new venue at our first planning meeting for Fall 2008, which was held August 14 at the USU amphitheatre following our final event of the summer season. (See “Summer Helicon West.”)
Whitney Olsen, a new graduate instructor at USU and member of the Fall 2008 Helicon West planning committee, researched a new venue for our spring and fall events and found a good fit: True Aggie Café, 117 North Main in Logan. Whitney and Star went down to the café together a week after the fall planning meeting and met with Richard Steele, owner of True Aggie, who immediately agreed to host our readings at his café/textbook store.
The first event of the Fall 2008 season, held Sept. 11 at True Aggie Café, was a huge success. 63 people attended with 17 readers, including special guest-readers Cynthia Nordgren and Shari Zollinger. Carrie Farmer hosted the event. The second reading, held Sept. 25 and hosted by Darren Edwards, had 12 readers, with 55 people in the audience.
We have gained solid community backing. Chadd Van Zanten, a tremendously-talented local fiction-writer, found our announcement in the newspaper and came to the first reading at Citrus and Sage in January 2006. Chadd has been a regular ever since. He brings co-workers along to read chapters of their novels, invites closet-writer friends to come out and share their work, and has joined a writing group in order to polish his own work and send it out for publication. He helps advertise Helicon West events by creating quirkily artistic fliers, which he distributes around the valley.
Another community member, Ronald Jensen, an elementary school library aide, has attended nearly every event since 2006. He is quite shy and his speech was difficult to understand when he first started reading for Helicon West. The audience always gives him a warm welcome and applauds his poems heartily, and he has become confident, stepping closer to the microphone when he reads. His speech is clearer with practice and he says “Hi” to the audience before he begins. We love his smile.
Helicon West named Dr. Paul Crumbley treasurer in 2007. He wrote a $1500.00 grant to sponsor US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser in a campus discussion panel, with the 2007 Helicon West/Utah Humanities Council May Swenson Speaker Series. He wrote a $750.00 grant to sponsor the 2008 HW/UHC MSSS discussion panel with poet Mark Doty. We hope to proceed with future grants for bringing major poets to the valley.
Submissions come to Star for consideration. Co-editors Cyndi Harmon and Chelsea Taylor select from Star’s recommendations. They meet to design layout and graphics, working with a theme in mind for each edition. Charlene Hirschi pledged Writing Center sponsorship for broadside production, which is ongoing.
Broadsides are archived at the USU Library. A complimentary broadside goes to each contributor; additional copies sell for $3.00 to public or $2.00 to contributors. Proceeds go toward marketing.
See Archive of broadsides for contributors, editors, and artwork.