Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2023: Emerging Artists slate includes Alaina Noelle, Las Vegas freestyle poet; Kearns High School student and poet Savannah Davis

ALAINA NOELLE (June 24, 12:45 p.m., The Round Stage)

One of the Utah Arts Festival’s Emerging Artists, Alaina Noelle is a poet from Las Vegas who specializes in freestyle forms. She answered several questions from The Utah a review by email. 

TUR: What were your formative influences and introductions to poetry? Who were among your significant influences, mentors and role models?

AN: My introduction to poetry came from an assignment in school when I was in the sixth or seventh grade and then just skyrocketed from there with me watching any and all kinds of poetry videos I could on YouTube. I fell deeply in love with the craft and since then I’ve been heavily influenced by poets like Jasmine Mans, Alysia Harris, Ebony Stewart, Rudy Francisco, Olivia Gatwood and SOOO many more. I’m also very thankful to have many local mentors from my city such as Elle Hope, Monarch The Poet, Vogue Robinson and more!

TUR: What types of topics, subject matter and sources became important to you and how have they evolved as you have expanded and gained more experience?

AN: The subject matter and topics that have become important to me stem from my own catharsis. I focus heavily on aspects of mental health as well as domestic matters such as intimate partner violence. I myself am a survivor of domestic abuse and poetry played such a huge role in my healing and continuous healing so I speak heavily about those topics to spread awareness. I’ve also been writing more about women’s rights and human rights in general now that I have gained more experience as a writer and a performer. 

Alaina Noelle.

TUR: I’m interested to hear about your process and how you have cultivated your freestyle approach?

AN: My freestyle approach that I’ve coined “off the dome” has become my signature style so to speak. It’s something that I have been doing for a very long time, I first started doing off the dome poetry in high school with a group of friends as a sort of challenge to see if I could just write a poem on spot. The other aspect of it was curated through nerves to be frank. I was at one of my first open mics at 18 or 19 and forgot half of my poem once I was on the mic, afraid to look like a fool and stumble, I just kept my mouth moving. My teammates on my slam team here at home, Spotlight Poetry, are some of my biggest supporters for my off the dome work. I plan to do an off the dome piece at my performance on Saturday! 

TUR: You’re presently in an area where poetry in all of its contemporary literary forms has really blossomed. How do you see collaboration and community continuing to strengthen this literary art form?

AN: The blooming of poetry in my community at home has been an amazing and beautiful thing to watch happen. Our community coming together across all of its art forms we have to offer has strengthened it in the way that it has opened the door for ANYONE to feel welcome and that they have a place in this scene. I see this bond continuing and strengthening through collaboration whether it’s a musical talent accompanying a poet on stage, a live painter on stage as we perform or even having physical movement like a dancer on stage. Some of these are things that I have seen and been a part of which has shown me that there can be a marrying of my craft and another. 

Alaina Noelle.

TUR: What do you look forward to most in your upcoming Utah Arts Festival appearance?

AN: I look forward most to all of the poets on the WordFest Stage as well as the slam, and of course, my own individual feature! This opportunity to perform as an emerging artist is truly ticking a box off my artist bucket list! I was at Arts Fest last year along with my team so I am fully aware of what an incredible and enriching experience it is, so to be here this year as an individual to showcase myself and my growth has been the cherry on top and the day I’ve been counting down to since I got my acceptance!

TUR: Please feel free to share any details about current or upcoming projects.

AN: A project I have been working on is something a little bit different to my usual writings. I am very much a free verse poet on both stage and page, I have been taking workshops to further my knowledge in poetic forms such as Petrarchan sonnets and so forth, so my newest project is a small collection of sonnets. In addition to this I have been working on a manuscript and hope to continue until I feel it’s come to a point of completion. 

SAVANNAH DAVIS (June 24, 3:15 p.m., The Round)

Like quite a few Utah high schools, Kearns High School has a vibrant spoken word performance and slam poetry program. Among the members is Savannah Davis, who is appearing this year as part of the Utah Arts Festival’s Emerging Artists program.

Davis says that she has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She adds that having the team at Kearns gave her an outlet to express herself without worrying about censorship or the compelling need to subscribe to norms in the campus community. 

Davis says that honesty and authenticity are important to her creative objectives. As she develops poems, she relies both on journals as well as the Notes app on her smartphone. And, she credits her Kearns colleagues with nourishing an environment to be passionate and curious as poets. And, like the other students, Davis welcomes the interactions with professional members in the poetry circles in the Salt Lake City metro area.  

After high school, Davis will attend Salt Lake Community College, which has many writing opportunities for poets and authors like her, before transferring to a baccalaureate school. She also has her eyes on collecting poems into a future chapbook.

For more information and tickets, download the Utah Arts Festival app for free, available to Android and iOS users. There also are links to the UAF’s standard website. 

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