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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

Read, Drink, Be Merry: A literary crawl throughout Columbia

Abby Lee

The 2nd Annual Lit Crawl took Columbians and visitors alike on a literature-focused tour through Columbia on Thursday night, kicking off the Unbound Book Festival.

The night included readings from authors and poets at different locations and games like Mad Libs and Cards Against Humanity – with a literary twist, of course.

Writers gathered at each stop in the city, taking to stages to read poems or excerpts of their work.

People from all walks of the literary world – authors, poets, booksellers, literary magazine editors and reader – sat around playing games and gabbing over their drinks.

DeAni Blake-Britton, a poet and creative writing student at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, performed two of her poems at Hexagon Alley early on in the night.

“I just get to look out at everyone’s faces, take a breath, and read,” Blake-Britton said.

The Hexagon Alley event featured contributors to The New Territory, a magazine focused on Midwestern art and people.

Another poet, Elijah Burrell, mounted the stage and began to recite his poem “Sharknapper,” which asked what three shark kidnappers – that is, three people stealing a shark – had going through their minds.

“And then the other side of that … what must it have felt like for the shark, and being in its clear cage, and being lifted out of the cage, and hoping for freedom,” Burrell said. “I don't know… it all came together. And it came together in a strange and, I think, kind of fun and weird and beautiful way.”

The Crawl began earlier in the night at Orr Street Studios with readings by local artists sharing unreleased essays and stories, including one author’s self-reflection through the lens of Beyoncé works. Symonne Sparks is a graduate student at MU’s theatre department.

Abby Lee

“It’s now a part of myself,” Sparks said of her Beyoncé-inspired work in progress. “It is literally me. And I’m expanding on writing about myself, but through the lens of different Beyoncé songs, her books, her music, how she's gone through things in her life as well, and comparing it to myself. And still letting that empower me all of my own.”

Nearly every event ran long, and the crowd never had the heart or desire to leave early. Instead, crowds ran from the end of one reading to the start of the next a few doors down.

Among the crowd was Jenna Mockler-Gjerde, who recently opened a bookstore in Decroah, Iowa, which she says is a college town like Columbia.

“It was really moving,” Mockler-Gjerde said. “It always blows me away to see people stand in front of a group of strangers and bare their soul. But I also think it's a very safe crowd. I think art people, book people are the best people. It's the most supportive group you're gonna find.”

Mockler-Gjerde hung in and hung out for the entirety of the Crawl, which ran from 8:00 p.m. to late. She said she enjoyed the event, which allowed everyone to listen, feel, and simply be together.

"Look out at everyone’s faces, take a breath, and read."
DeAni Blake-Britton

“The lit crawl, I love it,” Mockler-Gjerde said. “I'm already trying, my wheels are spinning because I want to see if there's a way to replicate it in my town.”

The games at Broadway Brewery – the final stop of the night – started about ten minutes late as the last of the readers and writers and listeners filed in.

As midnight approached, there was no apparent end in sight. People from all walks of the literary world – authors, poets, booksellers, literary magazine editors and reader – sat around playing games and gabbing over their drinks.

Luckily, most fest-goers and presenters had until the keynote from author Emily St. John Mandel on Friday night to take a breather, or they can rest up until Unbound’s very full Saturday ramped up.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.
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