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The Beast Crawl: Oakland’s Literary Mind Festival
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The Beast Crawl: Oakland’s Literary Mind Festival

Picture of Melissa Marie Davis
Updated: 11 December 2015
On July 11th 2015, Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood celebrated literature in the most invigorating way: by hosting a free literary festival including over 200 performance writers and 35 venues. Consisting of four legs, Uptown Oakland’s 4th Annual Beast Crawl was a meeting of the minds and words pouring off of poets and writers’ tongues, containing open mics, poetry and short story readings, and more.
Beast Crawl Map | © East Bay Express
Beast Crawl Map | © East Bay Express

This event was a great way to enjoy the artsy nature of the Uptown while exploring and supporting local businesses and writers alike. Starting at 5 pm, each leg featured over 10 events lasting for an hour each, so it was best if you made a map of which events you wanted to attend. The event was sprawled out covering a span of four hours (and if you like to party, then tack on three more hours), so this was a marathon. One of the first events was an open mic hosted by Liana Holmberg of the Rivet Journal, featuring talented individuals who had the chance to share their readings with the audience at Laurel Book Store. This helped prepare attendees to listen and be inspired by the people who had the courage to stand up and read poems or verses throughout the night.

Genevieve Lim | © Terri Carrión
Genevieve Lim | © Terri Carrión

Throughout the event, people seemed to find themselves inclined to doing some serious soul searching. The comradery that the writers had for one another was enthralling to observe, as they embraced with hugs and appreciation of each other’s crafts. On the second leg, Big Bridge, a renowned literary arts magazine, hosted an event at Somar Bar. The bar was dimly lit with couches and chairs surrounding the spotlight. Hosting and welcoming both poets and audience members alike were Michael Rothenberg, Terri Carrión and Youssef Alaoui. The event was filled with words that made your soul shiver, from Genevieve Lim’s “Black Lives Matter” to a heartfelt tribute to a friend by S.J. Cruz. Attendees also had the privilege of hearing from Sharon Doubiago, Owen Hill, Daniel Yaryan and more thought-provoking poets.

Graffiti Bleu | © Terri Carrión
Graffiti Bleu | © Terri Carrión

The third leg gave attendees the chance to satiate their thirst for knowledge at Soja Mind/Body, as Lip Service West showed them the gritty and raw inner workings of the writers. The reading was produced and hosted by Joe Clifford, and included some of the most intimate thoughts of Steven Gray, Patrick O’Neil, Mickay Williams, Justine Clifford, Tom Pitts and Seth Harwood. Overall, the rich experience of the Beast Crawl was more than a marathon—it was an intriguing and mind-opening, experience.

Not to be outdone, the fourth leg was an after party for those who had survived the Beast Crawl. The minds met, conquered, engaged, laughed, cried, celebrated and lived. The words heard that day were more than just words put to paper by pen, they were what everyone was thinking or needed to hear. They were living, breathing, and captivating for the heart, mind and soul. The Beast Crawl left people wanting and dreaming of more. It conquered minds and allowed them to open up, exploring both Uptown Oakland and themselves.

Poetic meeting of the minds | © Terri Carrión
Poetic meeting of the minds | © Terri Carrión

By Melissa Marie Davis

Melissa Marie Davis moved three years ago from the bitter cold Central New York to the Bay Area and fell completely in love with the culture and atmosphere. Check out more of her work at iamelmarie.tumblr.com and melissamariedavis.com