SPECTRA, the Quad Cities reading series, returns to Rozz-Tox on Thursday, Oct. 20 to celebrate the release of Skylar Alexander’s debut poetry collection “Searching for Petco,” released earlier this year by Forklift Books.

The SPECTRA Reading Series returns to Rozz-Tox in Rock Island on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Alexander – a native of Princeton, Iowa and 2022 master’s graduate of New York University — will read from the book, and will be joined on stage by fellow poets KayLee Chie Kuehl, Ryan Collins, and Lauren Haldeman, whose new graphic novel, “Team Photograph,” was just released by Sarabande Books.

Skylar Alexander grew up in Princeton, Iowa.

The event will be hosted by Baldur Dashing and Moxie Hart of Iowa City’s Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha Burlesque, who will also be performing between sets. The evening will be filled with poetry, music, dancing, and some other surprises — it promises to be unlike any other reading the QC has ever seen, according to an event release from Midwest Writing Center.

A student of Buddhist philosophy and pop culture, poet Skylar Alexander confesses all in her debut book of poems. “Searching for Petco” grapples with the self and with self-harm; with permission and survival; with grandmas and mixtapes; with dust bunnies and doom; with making poisonous gas and becoming air; with craving and professional wrestling; with blobfish and leeches; with Norman Reedus and vegans; with Klingons and Iggy Pop; with friends loved and lost; with getting lost; and with searching for Petco.

The cover of the new poetry collection.

Among praise for the new collection:

Searching for Petco is a mutant blast radius of righteous Midwestern anger and tender observation. Alexander takes a fire axe to our tech-bound, corporate-branded culture, wrecks misogyny and patriarchy with a fire axe, and turns hashtags into piercing poetic jabs. These poems are for all of us frustrated citizens searching for hope in the cruelty and gracelessness, all of us running errands, looking for a store in a strip mall, but finding a river, a sky, a friend instead.” — Adam Fell, author of Dear Corporation and I Am Not A Pioneer.

“Furious, on fire, and achingly caustic, these poems tear through the page as you read, searching for a moment of rest in a reckless world, a moment where, like “the lava of my body | turning | there’s a Shinto god,” verse might fuse frustration into insight. This book is a wild ride through that heroic quest.” — Lauren Haldeman, author of Instead of Dying and Calenday.

Growing up split between an ancestral farmhouse and a busted-up trailer on the banks of the Mississippi River, Skylar Alexander’s work centers on pop culture, chronic illness, philosophy, Buddhism, violence, and growing up in rural Iowa, according to her bio.

Her writing has appeared in places such as CutbankSmokelong QuarterlyHobart, and Forklift, Ohio as well as many others. She studied English and Entrepreneurial Management at the University of Iowa and recently received her master’s in education from NYU Steinhardt. A book designer and teacher, she now lives in New York City.

Lauren Haldeman is the author of Instead of Dying (winner of the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry), Calenday, The Eccentricity is Zero, and the graphic novel Team Photograph. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, The Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, Fence and others.

A graphic novelist and poet, she’s received an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and visiting fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and University of Cape Town, South Africa.

KayLee Chie Kuehl is a poet, writer, and artist based in Iowa City. Her projects often focus on culture, identity, race, and spirituality. Through the work creates, she hopes to provide a safe and healing space for as many people as she can.

Ryan Collins (executive director of the Midwest Writing Center) is the author of A New American Field Guide & Song Book, and several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Asymptote, Diagram, Handsome, Ninth Letter, PEN Poetry Series. Recent work appears in Apartment, Crazyhorse, Sink Review, and Two Peach.

He is the founder/host of the SPECTRA Reading Series in Rock Island.

For the Oct. 20 event, doors at Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Ave., Rock Island) open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. The event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase. Donations to MWC are welcome and go to support youth writing programs in the QC.