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Poetry to burlesque, annual fest celebrates eros

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

The Erotic Poetry & Music Festival celebrates its 28th anniversary with an evening of sensual song and verse this weekend. One of the oldest community festivals in Detroit, the event brings together a wide array of local artists, performers and vendors for a night of steamy surprises.

This year's lineup includes performance artist Satori Circus, burlesque artists Lushes LaMoan and Sweet Lilly Bee, and musical performances by Audra Kubat, White Shag and She Hound. The poetry portion features readings by Dena Luckett, Castratta Lady of Pain, and raconteur Jimmy Doom. The festival also showcases work from seven visual artists and kinky wares from several local vendors including Noir Leather and Keeping Secrets. And if you want to know for certain whether you'll get lucky after the show, Shetan Noir will give tarot readings.

Sue Static has been organizing the festival since its original venue, Alvin's, closed its doors. She says the event aims to satisfy a multitude of appetites with a colorful blend of art forms and perspectives.

"Our description of the night is 'an eclectic evening of erotic entertainment' and that is exactly what we offer in the form of art, poetry, music, dance, and comedy," Static says. "It is a very loose and fun evening."

The diverse nature of the show is due in part to the subjective nature of erotica, a loaded term with endless interpretations.

"Erotica is more teasing and suggestive than pornography, which is more direct and in your face," Static says. "The poets and their poems range from that as well — some are sexy and some are downright dirty. But it is always good-natured."

Satori Circus, whose early infatuation with antique black and white erotica has been an influence on his work, argues that erotica is a powerful form of expression that's about much more than cheap thrills.

"I think erotica has a lot of different meanings," he says. "It's titillating, it's dirty, it's naughty, it's beautiful, it's dark, it's mystic, it's an enigma, it's black and white, it's over-saturated color. Erotica sometimes gets misconstrued as dirty, pornographic, nasty, but to me it's not any of that. It's more about seeing beauty, finding beauty and being beautiful."

Poet Lianna Trimble has been performing at the festival for several years, and she says the event gives artists a uniquely supportive forum to explore their deepest desires.

"I still get a delicious thrill from mounting the stage and losing myself in the disconnect of performance," she says. "Considering the subject matter of the show, I think the overall vibe is extremely comfortable. Audience members are encouraged to hoot and holler at the raunchy pieces, but for the more sensual and dramatic prose, the crowd will typically provide the appropriate hush and contemplation. It's about exploring the boundaries of sexuality, hobnobbing with like-minded folks, and having a really damn good time."

As cathartic as the event can be for the performers, it's often just as rewarding for the audience. Trimble says the abstract nature of poetry allows us to express things we're often afraid to confide in others, and that can be extremely liberating for both speaker and listener.

"We are all human, we all have dark secrets, and there is a freedom in knowing that what I express openly, other people feel behind closed doors," she says. "The nakedness of self on stage is made worth it by the people who approach you after the show and share their own stories, their personal secrets."

Satori Circus shares the same thrill of personal discovery and community when he takes the stage.

"It allows you to dig deep inside and possibly answer some of your own questions about the subject matter," he says. "But there's nothing like a stranger coming up to you afterward and shaking your hand, or hugging you, or just plain old smiling at you. You know you captured them, you shared something with them: your soul, your artistic mind. You enlightened them."

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

The 28th Erotic Poetry and Music Festival

9 p.m. Saturday > Tangent Gallery > 715 E. Milwaukee > (313) 873-2955 > $10

A portion of the proceeds benefits Paws with a Cause >