Brewery Arts Center becomes a poem at poetry workshop

Beer, rock, paper and art spell out the history of the Brewery Arts Center and on Sunday these words provided Virginia City poet Shaun Griffin with the stuff of inspiration for a poetry workshop in the center's paint splattered classroom.

Griffin challenged eight local poets to write poems based on words that came to their minds when thinking of beer, rock, paper and art.

The men generally wrote about beer and invariably closed their poesy with the word burp. The women chose paper.

Griffin, whose poetry has been published in books and anthologies, vividly declared war against the abstract poetry that has dominated the past half century.

"I'm concerned about the deplorable state of poetry," said Griffin, whose most recently published book is "Bathing in the River of Ashes."

"We've been usurped by poetry I can't read or understand. I need to tell you this is nothing short of we do something about it? What this means is writing poems with meaning, not this gobbledygook that doesn't mean anything to anybody."

Griffin on Sunday led one of five poetry workshops held each year at the Brewery Arts Center, which sponsored this event along with the Ash Canyon Poets and the Nevada Arts Council's Tumblewords program. Griffin gave a special reading later Sunday.

He took up poetry at about the age of 15 and now is consumed with writing and teaching poetry. He also runs the Community Chest, which helps homeless children.

"A lot of my poetry is about the place I work," he said. "(Poetry) is the one thing I do that gives me redemption and helps me have meaning in life."

Griffin instilled his eight students-for-the-day - six from the Ash Canyon Poets - with the thought that poetry must be honest and revolve around the emotional truth: "say what you mean."

The Brewery Arts Center building's history inspired Griffin for exercise material. Its original purpose as home to the Tahoe Brewery supplied the "beer," the Masonic Lodge's use of the second story led to the "rock," the Nevada Appeal's years at the building triggered "paper" and its current use as an arts center logically supplied the word "art."

Griffin asked the poets to come up with 10 words they associate with beer, rock, paper and art and then they wrote sentences ending with each word. He then had the poets work a season of the year into their poems.

"With all of these (seasons) there is an emotional tension," he said.

Michael Kiriluk, dressed in a tie-dye shirt, has actively written poems for the past five years as a member of the Ash Canyon Poets.

"I want to try and learn a little more about my craft from somebody who knows what he's doing," Kiriluk said. "Everybody has their own secret way of doing things. Maybe I can pick up a few things."


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