Local writers, armed only with their written works, boarded the light rail Saturday afternoon for a very different kind of flash mob event; instead of song and dance, or even pantslessness, this flash mob involved prominent poets in the community.
“Flash Your Fiction,” the literary flash mob organized by Four Chambers Press, was among the many events the local publication is planning to help make prose and poetry more relevant in people’s lives.
“We are trying to present literature in relatively engaging ways that aren’t traditional sit-down readings,” said Jake Friedman, founder and editor-in-chief of Four Chambers Press. “We are trying to create a meaningful and relevant shared public art.”
The writers boarded four different light-rail trains in small groups. The poets began their trek at the Camelback Road and Central Avenue light-rail station, where local band The Haymarket Squares entertained waiting passengers and Short Leash Hot Dogs parked their food truck. Each group read to passengers until the Roosevelt Street stop on the light rail.
Four Chambers wanted the event to focus on community and relating to those listening, so many of the works that were recited dealt directly with the writers’ experiences involving public transit.
“We all experience the light rail individually every day, but now we’re going to all be experiencing it together, and having a conversation about it,” said Kelsey Pinckney, Four Chambers Press assistant director. “The goal of this (was) to make community really relevant, and make it easy to be a part of.”
First to read on the third train of poets was Julia Fleeman, who wrote about the gas guzzlers on the street. She started off quiet, with many of the passengers not paying attention, but soon her poem worked its way to its ‘climax’ as she yelled out in the personified voice of a car.
“I need it! I want it! Fill me up! Ohhh!,” Fleeman exclaimed, which worked in her favor as the audience loosened up with a bit of laughter.
Next up on that train was Frank Jackson, dressed for the occasion in his Reading Rainbow shirt. His work, which encompassed several themes, mainly revolved around his love for the archetypal bus driver.
“We are all on this bus together, in an uncertain time, in an uncertain world,” Jackson recited. “Though we are forced to eventually get off and head towards our own personal chaotic lives, there is always the bus driver who will be there tomorrow to pick you back up again.”
Wrapping up this group of readings was Kelly Nelson, who read a poem about a man who drove off with a bus while she was seated inside of it. Nelson ended her poem with saying she never told anyone what her and the bus thief spoke about.
“I think it’s a good way to get poetry out there, it’s fun for the people involved,” said Jack Evans, one of the participating poets. “I think most of the people on the train today had fun, too.”
The reactions of the commuters varied, but the response was positive overall. One young man switched cars during the flash reading, muttering “nope, nope, nope, nope” while a few others stared awkwardly at their feet refusing to look at the readers. However, most passengers smiled and applauded after each reading, confused but entertained.
After the poets reached their destination, the celebration of spoken work continued at the Phoenix Public Market, where the commuters were invited to hear more local works read aloud.
Friedman said Four Chamber Press hopes that with this event, and their other upcoming events, they can make the local literary scene more marketable and accessible to the masses.
“We aren’t trying to create anything; we aren’t trying to claim that things wouldn’t be here without us,” Friedman said. “We are taking what is already great and fantastic and trying to get it to a wider audience.”
Correction: September 15, 2014:
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Julia Fleeman’s and Frank Jackson’s name. It has been updated to show the correct spellings.
Contact the reporter at Jzbuntin@asu.edu