For nearly three decades now, poets have been gathering in the cozy quarters of Linnaea’s Café to read their work out loud. Dubbed Corners of the Mouth by founders Karl Kempton and Kevin Patrick Sullivan in 1984, this regular reading series has been a vital institution for writers along the Central Coast. Now, they’re honoring their recent 30th anniversary with their first-ever published anthology, Corners of the Mouth: A Celebration of Thirty Years at the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival.
“It was very exciting and very much a labor of love,” Sullivan told New Times. “We wanted to make sure that San Luis Obispo and our festival, that we have a hard record of it. This does it quite nicely.”
At more than 300 pages, the anthology features 147 poets from both the Central Coast and across the United States. It’s an impressive collection and one that runs the gamut of lyrical expression, from the visual poems of co-founder Kempton—one of which graces the book’s cover—to the prose-style poetry of Guggenheim fellow Stanley Plumly and the nature-inspired works of the recently announced 2015/2016 SLO County Poet Laureate Marguerite Costigan.
Over the years, hundreds of poets have participated in the Corners of the Mouth readings series and the SLO Poetry Festival, which made the anthology project a behemoth undertaking for Sullivan and his wife, Patti, who is also a featured poet in the book. Bit by bit, they went through festival fliers, old contacts, and Internet resources like Facebook to track down individuals.
“I could’ve had a book twice that size and still left a lot of people out there,” Sullivan noted. “The ones that are in are marvelous. There is a whole bunch of people that I tried contacting, but was never able to. We’re very happy with those that did respond. … One of the best things has been meeting the people and making friends over the years. I’ve built my life through poetry and the festival.”
In its final form, the anthology is a gorgeous and comprehensive testament to the endurance and vibrancy of poetry on the Central Coast. The anthology’s official launch will take place on Nov. 14, at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art at 7 p.m. Thirty poets will be there for live readings, and copies of the books will be available for purchase. The book is also available to buy online at Amazon.com. For more information, call Kevin Sullivan at 547-1318