Poetry has been a prisoner inside books for way too long." These are the words of local poet, essayist, journalist, teacher, spoken word performer — and now, visual artist — Kathryn Petruccelli.

"Poetry is an oral art first," said Petruccelli. "I haven't exhausted my inspiration of poetry as a spoken-word performance. I just wanted to give poetry a space. You know, literally a space."

On Friday, poetry will be given the space it deserves as Petruccelli transforms her words from the page to the stage — as well as the walls — of Café 316 in downtown Monterey, at the opening of her new exhibit "Stumbling into Ourselves: a visual poetry show."

The exhibit opening will feature a reception and poetry reading, followed by a discussion with Petruccelli about her work.

"Stumbling into Ourselves" is an exhibit of a dozen original poems, printed on stretched canvas, coupled with photographs or other graphic representations of the words in the poems, framed and displayed for viewing.

One poem will be represented in three dimensions, while another will be accessible in audio as well as text.

"Come out and move around these poems," wrote Petruccelli in a press release. "Get to know them and what they have to say to you, what you have to say because of them."

Poems on display in "Stumbling into Ourselves" are united by the theme of identity — creating or re-creating it — and the transitions that get one there.


In the poem "dreams of modern life," Petruccelli wrote:

"...We all walk piled with dreams. The ones you had last night and are still plagued by, even though you can't remember the plots and only a few details, the ones calling to you trying to help, lifesaver after lifesaver hitting the water and floating away ..."

This particular poem has an image of a little girl holding a penny at a fountain. so Petruccelli has glued pennies to the canvas, which she said gives her another opportunity to highlight the metaphor in the poem.

In another poem, "The Box," about a student of hers who was an agricultural field worker, Petruccelli has framed the canvas in a berry box.

Though Petruccelli has never considered herself a visual artist before, she conceived the idea of a visual representation of written word as a way to broaden the audience for poetry, as well as a way to cross traditional genre boundaries.

"We are living in a world that values specialization to a fault," said Petruccelli. "We compartmentalize everything. We break everything down into little pieces. There are border fences and blockades and gated communities. We're trying to keep one thing in and others out. I don't buy it. It's so harmful. We need to grow our community in all kinds of ways. I'm all for bleeding over, collaboration, interdisciplinary work. If poetry can meet art — and artistic hanging — then all the better."

It's not surprising that Petruccelli would come up with the innovative idea of visual poetry, since much of her life since moving to Monterey from the East Coast 13 years ago has included working toward the goal of raising the profile of poetry in our community.

She's done this by organizing local poetry readings and literary events, teaching writing courses and interviewing authors and poets for local public radio.

Her audio interviews have included such writers as Isabel Allende, Frank McCourt, Nikki Giovanni and Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Petruccelli's own work has appeared in The Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, Porter Gulch Review, Homestead Review, MotherVerse, mamazine.com, literarymama.com and other publications.

When asked why poetry is so important in the modern world, Petruccelli said, "My first thought is that it's not so much poetry in particular, but art. Art gives us contemplative time and surprises. I believe we should be creating art and centering our lives around creating. Not doing it in our spare time, but really making it our focal point in how we spend our time on this earth. My medium happens to be words. I love language, I love story and I love connecting with people through these things."

Lily Dayton can be reached at montereybaylily@gmail.com.GO!

·What: "Stumbling into Ourselves: a visual poetry show" by Kathryn Petruccelli
·Where: Café 316, 316 Alvarado St., Monterey
·When: Exhibit opening, reading and reception at 7p.m. Friday, June 25; exhibit continues through July
·Tickets: Free
·Information: 324-4566, montereybound@yahoo.com, fetalpositions.blogspot.com