Sunday, October 23, 2005
Nov. 1 2005 5PM: My guest will be Timothy Gager cofounder of
“The Somerville News Writers Festival”
Three years. In the world of literary ventures, venues, etc.... this can seem like a lifetime. Tim Gager and I started “The Somerville News Writers festival,” a few years ago, when “The Somerville News,” was undergoing big changes with new ownership and staffing. I asked Tim to join me in this venture because of his reputation for running an excellent reading series for fiction writers, “Dire Reader,” at the “ Out of the Blue Art Gallery,” in Cambridge. Since then Tim and I have presented poets and writers like Andre Dubus lll, Tom Perrotta, Jack Powers, Marc Goldfinger, Deborah Priestly, Robert K. Johnson, Steve Almond, and others, at the “Jimmy Tingle Theatre,” in Davis square.
To tell you the truth, I am surprised that we lasted this long. It takes a lot of work, and a cadre of loyal interns, not to mention money, to put on these literary gigs. There is always the clash of personalities and considerable egos, along with the attempts to attract an often indifferent media to contend with. But with the backing of “The Somerville News,” both owners and board of directors, we have presented what we believe is fitting for the impressive literary community Somerville has become.
This year, Nov. 13 2005, to be exact, we are moving to a larger space at the historic “Somerville Theatre,” in Davis Square. We will be housed in a 900 seat theatre, and have an impressive roster of readers. On board will be two Pulitzer Prize winners poet Franz Wright and novelist Robert Olen Butler. Louisa Solano, owner of the famed “Grolier Poetry Book Shop,” will be presented with the “Ibbetson Street Press Life Time Achievement Award,” and poets and writers such as Sue Miller (“The Good Mother”), Alex Beam (“Gracefully Insane”), Lan Samantha Chang, the new head of the “Iowa Writers Workshop,” Susie Davidson (“I Refused to Die...”), Steve Almond (“My Life in Heavy Metal”), Afaa Michael Weaver ( “These Hands I Know), Tim Gager (“Short Street), Hallie Ephron and Donald Davidoff ( “Delusion,”), will read from their impressive body of work.
The music will provided by that gifted poet/singer/ songwriter Jennifer Matthews. Matthews is a published poet, who has just released a critically acclaimed CD “The Wheel,” (Thunda Moon Records).
We are keeping the ticket prices low at $9, to make this an accessible festival. Both Tim and I feel strongly that the rich artistic milieu of Somerville, Mass. should have a festival that aspires for national recognition, but still stays true to its local roots.
*For info. About tickets contact
Nov. 29 2005: 5PM My guest will be poet Michael Brown.
Michael R. Brown
"the Jerry Garcia of performance poetry" --WBUR/NPR"ein Dichter und Weltenbummler" --Die Welt"rascal-artist-angel-wonder...at the same time" -- Paul Stokstad, "Poets at 8"
Along with Finnish performance poet Erkki Lappalainen, President of the International Organization of Performance Poets, Michael Brown, the organization's General Secretary, produced the first Poetry Olympics held October 1998 in Stockholm, Europe's Cultural Capital. Poets from twelve countries competed in four separate categories. Plans are underway for a larger Olympics during the next several years in another European country.
Michael Brown's first book of poetry, Falling Wallendas (Chicago: Tia Chucha, 1994) resulted from a performance piece presented around the USA for the previous three years. The point of view is that of someone who has lived a full life and finds it too easy to look back in comfortable memory and not too difficult to look ahead. Much of the political attitude stems from a quote from an old organizer, "The most radical thing you can have in America is a long memory." In 1995 Brown's new performance piece, Prof. Perfpo lectures on performing poetry, premiered at Passim's in Cambridge. Susquehanna, his new book-length poetry manuscript, presents persona poems from small town life. He is currently working on two more poetry books, one of which is The Martin Bormann Dog Care Book containing political poems.
Michael Brown's first published poem appeared in the premiere issue of Beyond Baroque in 1968. Over the past 30 years his poems have been in (among others) Amandla Ngewethu!, Another Chicago Magazine, Blue Cloud, Defined Providence, Galley Sail, Greenfield Review, Kudzu, Oyez, On the Bus, Pembroke, Red Brick Review, West Coast Poetry Review, and in Since Feeling Is First (Scott, Foresman, 1972), The Vagaries of Invention (Sidewinder, 1982) and Stray Bullets: Chicago Saloon Poets 1991 (Tia Chucha, 1992). He has also had travel articles in The Chicago Tribune, "Homage to Robert Hayden" in Commentary (1980), fiction in Wormwood, feature articles in The Chicago Reader, and occasional columns in The Korea Times.
An itinerant professor, Brown has been teaching for 39 years, including five years of high school and stints at Michigan, East Texas State, Central (Ohio) State, Western Michigan, Illinois-Chicago, the Uptown Chicago Center of Elmhurst and North Park, Roosevelt, Rhode Island, Suffolk, and his best-loved of all, Chicago State. Currently Professor of Communications at Mount Ida College, he teaches writing, Intercultural Communications, and English as a Second Language.
Brown holds a Ph.D. in English and Education from the University of Michigan. His dissertation, directed by Robert Hayden, was a literary history of the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1986 and 1987 Brown taught at Suwon University in South Korea and traveled extensively in Asia. In 1988 he lectured on English as a second language at the National Normal University in Taipeh. In 1991 he lectured at the University of Stockholm on African American literature and performed his poetry at Kaffe 44. In 1998 he lectured on performance poetry at Hamburg University and performed in London, England; Halmstad, Umea and Stockholm, Sweden; Dusseldorf and Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Jerusalem.
Brown began doing slam and performance poetry when he returned from Korea. After honing his skills in the bars of Chicago, including the infamous Weeds, he and his wife brought competitive poetry to the Northeast. They co-hosted the Boston slam, and they were members of the 1993 National Championship team from Boston. Brown organized the 1992 International Poetry Slam Championships. He founded Slam! the International Performance Poetry Newsletter, official publication of the Poetry Olympics and the US national slam, and he is creator of for international poetry news. He has several times performed his poem "Chorus" as part of Beat Cafe, an original ballet choreographed by former Joffrey dancer Anthony Williams. He recently completed a play , The Duchess of York. He appeared in the documentary film SlamNation. He continues to write, teach, perform, plan, and dream.