Oklahoma Voices poetry reading promotes a diverse set of Sooner voices 

click to enlarge Individual Artists of Oklahoma began hosting Oklahoma Voices poetry reading about a year and a half ago. | Photo Gazette / file
  • Individual Artists of Oklahoma began hosting Oklahoma Voices poetry reading about a year and a half ago. | Photo Gazette / file

For Oklahoma native poet Dorothy Alexander, the current political climate in the country has its silver lining.

“I don’t like the political situation, but I like the poetry situation,” said Alexander from her current home in Santa Fe in a phone interview with Oklahoma Gazette.

Alexander said hundreds of people turned out for poetry readings at July’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival — Alexander is a founding member of the Woody Guthrie Poets.

“There seems to be a resurgence in people liking poetry, especially poetry protest and resistance,” she said. “I kind of thank the political system for this.”

Okie voices

Alexander, who recently published a book of poetry, Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way: Celebrating Woody Guthrie, Poems of Protest & Resistance, is the featured reader at the Sunday Oklahoma Voices poetry series at Individual Artists of Oklahoma, 706 W. Sheridan Ave.

The Oklahoma Voices series began about five years ago under Alexander, who has since turned over organizing efforts to Terry Lynn Cummings, and the event moved to IAO about a year and half ago.

Current IAO board president David Smith, who performs poetry under the name Spontaneous Bob, said the first poetry reading he attended was as a teenager in the 1980s.

“The organization was founded by poets in the 1970s, so to have a poetry presence back under our roof is always a good thing,” Smith said. “To have something this successful is exciting.”

Alexander begins the event with a 15-20-minute reading before an open mic portion and then closes out the event.

“More Oklahoma Book Award winners and poet laureates have participated in [Oklahoma Voices] than any other reading I’ve been to,” Smith said.

Alexander said the event wants to showcase a diverse spectrum of views and voices, primarily focusing on Oklahoma writers, but it does bring in people from out of state.

She will read from one of her five published poetry books, which is written in a “narcissistic narrative” or “selfie” style because she focuses on her personal hardships and friends.

“I like to write about the Depression and the Dust Bowl days because I’m quite old and remember those days, but I try to write something new every month,” 83-year-old Alexander said.

She isn’t letting age slow her down. Her visit to Oklahoma City is part of a five-city mini-tour that will also stop in Dallas on Friday and Stillwater on Nov. 10.

Alexander got into poetry late in life, first debuting publicly about 17 years ago. She’s a native of Roger Mills County and a lawyer and practiced as a municipal judge in western Oklahoma.

She discovered poetry as an outlet after her son Kim died in 1989 during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

“I got involved in the movement after his death to provide some sort of advocacy for patients within my law practice,” Alexander said. “Poetry seemed to give me some consolation and inspiration. It gave me an outlet to express my feelings. Everything I had written [before then] were briefs, and poetry gave me a freedom of expression that I had not found before.”


Print headline: Singular protest; Oklahoma Voices poetry reading promotes a diverse set of Sooner voices.

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