In Defense Of…

Confession: for a few months, I pondered ending the reading series that I’ve been running for over five years, The Writers’ Showcase. The series has undergone a lot since its inception, including three venue changes and a co-host who moved to Philadelphia. However, after talking to writer friends from across the county, I’ve decided to keep it going. I’m grateful to them for sparking my motivation to keep doing this thing. We’ve had a lot of conversations about the Trump age and what this means for the arts, namely if the NEA and NHE are totally defunded, which has been proposed in the Trump budget. No matter the fate of those organizations, it is imperative that we keep these local reading series going as a means to give a voice to writers. Writers have always been a form of resistance, and we need to ensure that we have spaces and series to make their work available to the public. With that in mind, I am going to host another edition of the Writers’ Showcase in April, and we’re thrilled about the line-up, which is included on the flyer below. I am also committing myself to continue writing book reviews for other writers. My goal is to write 4-6 reviews a year, a schedule I’ve been able to keep up with over the last few years and one I think I can maintain. Here is a new review I wrote of Patrick T. Reardon’s book Requiem for David, which I highly recommend. I was not familiar with his work until the editor of At the Inkwell asked me if I wanted to review it. Another goal for me is to review books of authors I’m not familiar with, as a way to expose myself to work outside of my usual circle and do the same for others.

Let’s think about ways that we can continue supporting our local art scenes because we really need that right now.

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When it gets closer to the date, I will post the bios of our featured writers for April.

Two New Reviews

I had the chance to review two new collections of poetry for At the Inkwell and TheThePoetry, George Wallace’s A Simple Blues with a Few Intangibles (FootHills Publishing) and Stay with Me Awhile by Loren Kleinman (Winter Goose Publishing).

Checkout the review of Wallace’s book here, and check out the review of Kleinman’s new collection here.

East Coast Readings and Amiri Baraka’s Passing

On Thursday I had the pleasure of reading at the KGB Bar in New York City for a third time and at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg the following night, two East Coast readings during the week New Jersey-based poet and Black Arts pioneer Amiri Baraka died.
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I was thinking about both venues a lot this last week and the nature and point of giving poetry readings, in the context of Amiri Baraka’s passing. The KGB Bar, situated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has been a staple of the East Coast poetry scene for years. Readings happen nearly every night. My reading was put on my Monique Lewis and her organization At The Inkwell, which gives voice to new and established writes. Monique makes no money for hosting these readings monthly and doing all of the PR, and yet, she does it, as a way to support other writers.

The reading at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore was put on by the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel, which has been hosting readings for over 15 years. After my feature, I nearly sold out of books! The organizers don’t get paid for hosting a weekly reading series, but they do it again and again, like Monique and At the Inkwell, as a way to support other writes and maintain a community among artists. Beyond the weekly poetry readings, Midtown Scholar Bookstore is an intellectual hub in the middle of a state capital that has flirted with bankruptcy and has a skyrocketing crime rate. Yet, situated downtown is a place where intellectuals, young writers, activists, and even politician meet, a place with walls of books, matched only by The Strand in NYC. All of these people and organization provide community, and that should be what giving poetry readings and hosting readings is all about- community and giving a voice to others.

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On my way to Harrisburg, among the news of the Chris Christie Bridgegate scandal, I learned of Amiri Baraka’s passing. Baraka, a political activist and New Jersey resident, never saw a division between poetry and politics, poetry and education, and poetry and community. A leader of the Black Arts Movement, he helped give rise to a new generation of writers. After getting home from back to back readings, I felt inspired, ready to keep writing, doing readings, and hosting other writers in my community. Let’s take this week to go back to Amiri Baraka’s poetry, to read his past interviews, and remember that people are the foundation of politics and poetry is about community.

I’ll end this post with a video of Baraka from Bill Moyers’ show. This was recorded in 1999. It features some live readings, too. Here’s a link.

Upcoming Readings

It’s a new year, and to kick things off right, I’m doing a few readings this January, one in NYC, and one in Harrisburg.

Here’s is the info:

Wednesday, January 8
7-9 p.m.

KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th Street, New York City

This event is part of the At the Inkwell reading series, and I will be one of four featured readers. Here is a link to the event.

Thursday, January 9
7-9 p.m.

Almost Uptown Poetry Reading

Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. Third Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102

This event will include an open mic, and I will be the featured reader.

Furthermore, I recently did an online radio interview wit my publisher, Annmarie Lockhart of Unbound Content. You can listen to that interview here.