The poetry of Stephen F. Austin State University theater major Ashe Vernon was recently published through Words Dance Publishing, and Vernon’s book, “Belly of the Beast,” will be celebrated with a reception at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.
Vernon, a senior from Spring, will read selections from her collection starting at 7:30 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session. Copies of her book will be available for purchase at the event, and Vernon will be available to autograph them.
Describing herself as a “spoken-word poet,” Vernon said her poetry is free verse. She often competes in poetry slam competitions, and “The Belly of the Beast” contains the type of work “I could put in front of a microphone,” she said.
With the book’s dedication page closing with “this is a book full of ghosts,” Vernon said she feels like that’s probably one of the best ways to describe its contents.
“My writing typically addresses themes like self worth and belonging, as well as recovering after loss and heartbreak,” she said. “It’s a book about making friends with your demons and finding the strength in your hurts.”
The inspiration behind “Belly of the Beast” is as varied as the collection, with some poems relating back to Vernon’s personal struggles with body image and self esteem. Some poems are about relationships while others are about emotions or experiences.
“I also get a huge amount of inspiration from Greek mythology, and you can see some of that in this book,” she said.
The collection is divided into three sections: “Kisses That Are All Teeth,” “Blood in the Water” and “A Heart In Flowering Spring.”
“The title is a good indication of what type of poetry you’ll find in each section,” Vernon explained. “Although each poem in the book was written separately, I did arrange them in a way that tells a sort of narrative and progresses through the story of the ‘beast.’”
Vernon noted that some of the poems in “Belly of the Beast” are not child-friendly, stating the subject matter is intended for a teen-and-up age range. She also said the book is for “everyone who has ever felt too big and too small, all at once.”
“It’s for people who are looking to feel a little less alone, and trying to figure out how to love themselves,” she said, adding the poetry reflects a belief that, “you are bigger than the things that hurt you. You are more than a collection of your own heartbreak. And you could tear down the whole world if you wanted to, but instead you’re putting it back together. And that’s important.”
“Belly of the Beast’ was published last fall just before the holidays, and Vernon has already been contacted by another publisher interested in her work. Her next project, “Wrong Side of a Fist Fight,” is scheduled for publication this summer through Where Are You Press.
Vernon has served as a gallery attendant for SFA art galleries for the past three years.
The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information about the reception and poetry reading, call (936) 468-1131.