It’s All About Community

Yesterday, I took part of a panel discussion at the Osterhout Library in Wilkes-Barre in celebration of National Poetry Month. I could talk for hours and hours about my relationships with poetry and why I love the genre, but that’s not why I enjoyed this event. I liked it because I looked out and saw young people in the audience, including one high schooler with a stack of books, and an elementary student. Both have an interest in writing, and they were wide-eyed and on the edge of their seats while we talked about the writing process and our key influences.

After the event, I thought about how lucky I am to live in an area that has events like this. Throughout April, Osterhout is running a series of free poetry workshops. The library has also held various poetry and prose readings, and it publishes a literary magazine, Word Fountain. A few blocks down from the library, there is a reading series the third Friday of every month at ArtSEEN Gallery in Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton includes the Prose in Pubs series and the New Visions series. As I chatted with the two young members of the audience yesterday, I thought about how important community is to writing, how we need mentors and friends involved in the writing process because no one outside of such a community cares that we write.

Students in one of my creative writing classes this semester understand the importance of community, since they decided to create a writing workshop outside of class. I’m also starting to see more and more students at various literary events in the community. That’s what it’s all about, supporting each other, guiding each other, and forming something bigger than one’s own writing.

Vintage Theater Closes Its Doors for Now

By now, I’m sure a lot of people who read this blog know that the Vintage Theater in downtown Scranton is closing, at least temporarily.  The owners are trying to find a new location to continue providing the variety of music, art, and literary events that the venue offered. Tonight will mark the final event at the Vintage Theater’s Penn Avenue location, an art show featuring portraits of local writers, artists, and musicians. The event begins at 6 p.m. and is part of Scranton’s First Friday Art Walk. If you are out and about, I encourage you to stop at the Vintage Theater and say goodbye to its current location.

For me, the Vintage was special because its owners allowed me to host various poetry workshops and readings. I even had the book release party for Front Man there in the fall of 2010, and I’m grateful to have celebrated that accomplishment with family and friends in that venue. Vintage also had a writing group that met every Saturday, and some of its key participants hosted a poetry open mic night the third Thursday of every month. I attended it a few times and was the featured reader a few months ago. That open mic provided writers of varying levels the chance to hone their skills and share their work in public, which is especially useful for beginning writers.

Last night, I read at the KGB Bar in the Lower East Side of New York City. It was my second time reading there, and at both readings, the bar was packed with an attentive audience. After I finished the reading, I thought about how lucky artists and writers in the city are to have spaces like the KGB Bar, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Cornelius Street Cafe, venues that always have a packed house and events going on every day of the week.  These venues thrive because they have people willing to support them. When the Vintage re-opens and perhaps reshapes its mission, I hope even more people come to events to support it and keep its doors open.

For now, I’m sure that the folks who frequented Vintage will find other places to go. I have heard that the writing group that met there every Saturday will now meet at Northern Lights Cafe in downtown Scranton every Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, people can also check out New Visions Studio and Gallery on Vine Street, which also offers a lot of concerts and some literary events, including the Writers Showcase. There is also the Library Express in the Steamtown Mall, which has an open mic poetry night the last Thursday of every month at 6:30, as well as various workshops and author events. In an ideal world, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre would have a variety of venues with a slew of events.

Here’s an old picture of me reading at the Vintage during the release party for Front Man.