Oakland Beast Crawl literary festival Saturday
By Lou Fancher
Hurry up and slow down to a crawl.
That directive seems contrary — except when it comes to the sixth annual Beast Crawl. The free Oakland literary festival Saturday pivots the spotlight onto more than 150 writers reading their work at roughly 40 venues, including cafes, galleries, restaurants, bars, record and bookstores.
The best way to get ready is to check out the Beast Crawl website, http://beastcrawl.weebly.com. FAQs direct families with young children to All Ages venues, or guide the 21-and-over crowd to locations serving alcohol. Another page provides an easily followed festival map and divides the foot tour into four “legs” that cluster the readings and after-parties in one-hour segments divided by 30-minute relocation breaks beginning at 5 p.m.
There’s even a funky explanation of the event’s naming origins that reads like material for a children’s book, possibly involving giant industrial cranes stalking wild pigs in downtown Oakland, or some such shenanigans.
On the day-of, volunteers at the Beast Crawl information table on Telegraph Avenue between Grand Avenue and 23rd Street are available from 4 to 8:30 p.m. The ground central location offers information, plus Beast Crawl T-shirts and casual interaction with participating poets and writers.
Of course, the real point of Beast Crawl is storytelling and live readings. For that, the organizers go to the experts, like Poetry Express, StorySlam, Skinless, Tourettes Without Regrets, Bay Area Trans Writer’s Workshop, Jay DeMartini, Brown People Don’t Read, Queer Spectrum Media, Oakland Crossroads, Saturday Night Special and other sites.
For families and teens, the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Showcase has 2017 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Lucy Flattery-Vickness and Oakland Public Library Assistant Peggy Simmons joined by a half-dozen laureates and finalists from the 6-year-old youth poetry program sponsored by Oakland Public Library and Youth Speaks.
Seasoned storytellers are the focus at Kay DeMartini’s self-named presentation, this year subtitled, “Exposed.” Promising confused confidences concerning weed, woefully frozen heads and wandering outside the parameters of marriage, DeMartini’s seven years of presenting live storytelling and event readers squirrel-carnivore Doug Cordell and curse-word expert Allison Landa aim “Exposed” at older audiences.
Beast Crawl brazenly offers opportunity for people to grab an open mic and let loose with literary gems. Leg Two at Laurel Books invites readers to sign up for an open mic on a first-come, first-speak basis. A three-minute time limit is enforced for the 10 who will speak at the downtown bookstore or at the subsequent Leg Three Open Mic hosted by lit producer and former Litquake Executive Committee member Matthew DeCoster at Legionnaire Saloon.
These are only a few of the festival’s highlights, but the biggest reason to participate in Beast Crawl may be the mind-warping literary realization the festival offers. In this digital age, you can turn the clock back to an old-fashioned, handheld literary device. Sure, there will be laptops, phones, tablets and e-readers on display, but a least a few people will hold in their hands the real deal: a book.