In this edition of The 3:03 Express Interview Series, we ask three kick-ass poetry reading hosts three questions about why you, the wonderful poets of the highways and railyards, should get thyself to a monthly reading series and step up to the mic! Please Welcome Erin Lynn (host of the Poor Mouth Reading Series in
New York City), Kendall Bell
(host of the Maverick Duck Press Series in ) and Sarah Tatro (host of the Cadence
Collective's 2nd Mondays Poetry Party in Mount Holly,
1. What led you to the decision to host a monthly poetry reading series? And what do you personally/creatively get out of hosting as opposed to just reading at another series?
Erin Lynn: When I first had the idea for the series, I was a senior at
An Beal Bocht was (and still is) my local pub and its Tuesday night music open
mic was a regular feature of my week. The pub was also bringing in writers for
occasional book readings, and it's also named after a novel by Flann O'Brien,
so I thought it could use a regular reading series, similar to the music open
mic. I approached the owners and they were enthusiastic and helpful. The first
reading was December, 2009. Manhattan College
Hosting the series allows me to engage with other writers. I'm currently in an
MFA program, but when I
wasn't, I was in the habit of composing at least one new poem a month to bring
to the series. It sort of kept me honest. Other regular readers at the series
have told me that coming to the reading provides a good deadline. So it has
this very real-time feel for me. Everyone seems to be reading fresh work, and
there's a lot of openness and discussion. I also love the pageantry of
performing at a mic. It might be the lighting in the pub or the contents of my
glass, but it feels a lot more exciting than reading during a workshop.
Kendall Bell: Well, it was a collective decision, at first. I was part of a poetry critique group called The Quick & Dirty Poets. We met every month and workshopped, and after about a year we decided that we wanted to do some readings. Some years down the line after becoming the group's president, I took more control of the readings. It was then that I also decided to run a reading series for Maverick Duck Press, my chapbook micro-press.
I liked the idea of bringing poetry to the community and that is still what drives me to keep hosting readings. I'm a big backer of the arts. I also like being able to just sit back and hear someone read their poetry instead of worrying about reading my own. I pay attention to the cadence of other poets and if there's something in their style that I like, I'll use it to improve my own performances. Also, I like to incorporate ideas from other readings that I attend into
MDP readings, to
try something a little different. I'd like to shake things up more and have the
readings be a bit looser, maybe even raucous. Sometimes I think poets are a
little too careful and overthink things.
Sarah Tatro: The first completely poetry open mic reading I went to was in 2013, led by G. Murray Thomas. Through that series, I was able to connect with many other people in the poetry community. I also began attending other readings at an independent bookstore in
Beach called Gatsby's. In August of 2013, Murray
ended his reading series due to a job change. I remember thinking that it would
be really cool to co-host a reading with him at Gatsby, but did not mention it
to anyone then. At the same time, I began running a Long
Beach focused poetry website called
CadenceCollective.net as a way to further get connected into the community. At
some point, Sean Moor, the owner of Gatsby's Book, asked me if I'd ever thought
about hosting a reading series as an extension of Cadence Collective. I then
put out a general mass email to all the poetry reading hosts I knew to ask for
words of wisdom (not asking for a partner) and the first one to respond was
Murray, who offered to co-host. So in January of 2014, we had our first
As far as what a person can get out of hosting as opposed to just reading at another series? Many opportunities to meet and discover new poets. We always have at least two features. I book someone local who's been featured on the website and
books a "non-local". His picks are often new to me, so I get to hear
their work and connect with them in person. My picks are usually my friends,
but I get to help show them off.
2. What are the benefits for writers who choose to read their work in public? How might it affect the creation process? Do writers who read in public have a better chance of being published?
Erin Lynn: I think the deadline is super beneficial. When you don't know if you're going to be paid for your writing, or if it's ever going to be published, it can be hard to motivate yourself to finish a piece. Coming to a reading regular not only provides a due date, but it also comes with a built in audience. Completing a piece of writing is different when you plan to share it. And I think performing work orally provides a particular kind of pressure. I tend to feel more responsible for my work having read it aloud to others.
Readings facilitate a
community of writers; people who come to them tend to be involved in the
"industry" in some capacity or another, so it's a great way to make
Kendall Bell: The bottom line, for me, is that those who choose to read in public get their voice out there. Their words are being heard, and that's really the most important thing. Not everyone is Emily Dickinson sitting in their room writing and hiding their poems away. The need for connection is important. And it most assuredly affects the creative process. At readings, when I hear a poet I really like, it gives me a charge. It makes me WANT to write. It could even help me out of a creative funk. I'm always up for exploring other ways to write and other challenges as a poet. I don't know if it increases your chances of publication, but it certainly can't hurt. An editor of a NJ print annual was the featured reader for QND at one of our earlier readings, there was one poem I read that she really liked. After I finished reading, she grabbed my arm and said, "Send me that poem." Needless to say, it was the catalyst for me to submit more.
Sarah Tatro: Poetry, historically, is an oral tradition. Most of it is meant to be spoken and heard.
in front of a safe audience give poets a chance to feel and hear reactions to
their work. I often want to go home and revise or edit a piece after reading at
an open. Do writers who read in public have a better chance of being published?
It certainly doesn't hurt. I know I often solicit poets who read in the open to
submit poems to my website or other projects.
3. What advice would you give a writer who might be shy about sharing his or her work in public but is still thinking of trying it out?
Erin Lynn: Giving readings is part of being a writer, so it's really worth trying it out. The first time might be scary, but no one is going to judge you. Take a deep breath and be proud of what you've written.
Kendall Bell: I would tell them to go for it. Check out local readings first. Get familiar with how they're run and see if you like the setting. If you feel comfortable there, give it a go. A coffeehouse is the perfect place for that. I'm usually most comfortable in coffeehouses, surrounded by the smells of the drinks. There is no one who will judge you or tell you to stop reading. If you're happy with your poems and want to share, do it. You'd be surprised at the connections you can make both creatively and emotionally.
Sarah Tatro: Find a safe place with a warm atmosphere. Just listen for a while before signing up. Hearing the various levels of reading in an open list can help ease fears.
Erin Lynn: Poor Mouth Reading Series at An Beal Bocht Café, 445 W 238th St, Bronx, NY 10463
Kendall Bell: Maverick Duck Press Reading Series at The Daily Grind Coffee Shop, 48 High St, Mt Holly, NJ 08060
Sarah Tatro: Cadence Collective's 2nd Mondays Poetry Party at Gatsby Books, 5535 E. Spring
St., . Long
Beach, CA 90808