Sunday, March 7, 2010
starting from scratch...
It's been an incredibly fast track leading to this blog and posting. It was only in November of 2009 that I even conceived of doing a "series" at the Soundry in Vienna, VA. Having discovered the Soundry by chance from a listing on the DC-based Beltway Poetry Quarterly, I first attended one of their Friday night "Verbal Assault" events in early September 2009.
I returned a few weeks later and began to get the itch to get back into the hosting/curating mode that had led me to the Master of Art Management program at George Mason University in the first place. That was 2004. With the exception of a few readings I attended at DCAC and Georgetown University, I had avoided the poetry scene in Washington DC & Northern VA rather successfully. That is - until I attended the Verbal Assault at the Soundry. While the talent in the room was mixed and the event was unfocused, I began to see the possibilities manifest before my disbelieving eyes.
I saw what I came to be called "The Poetry Lab" - I jotted down The Poetry Lab will be a poetic "Black Box" . Black Box - wired for sound (the space is set up for bands to rehearse and perform) - the walls double as an art gallery. The space oozed of art and creativity. I felt I had to do something here. It felt perfect. So, I approached the owner, Jennifer Crawford, to see if she would be interested in allowing one of the Verbal Assault nights to evolve into something else. She agreed, and asked what I was planning to call the event. The Poetry Lab was born in that second. It was decided that the first Friday of each month would be dedicated to this "experiment". The possibilities were limitless. The first event was set to occur on December 4, 2009.
What happened next feels like divine providence. I was invited to attend a reading at the Reston Used Bookstore in Reston, VA in late November where I met Saul Rosenberg, Travis Leith, and Peace. Less than 2 weeks later, Saul wrote the following about the first Poetry Lab event:
"Well, for those who didn't make it last night (Peace and I were there, representin' Reston), Steve has put together a really good event at the Soundry in a perfect place for a poetry gathering. Imagine this.. a building that at one time was used as an auto garage. cleaned up and repainted and turned into an artists loft, an art galery, a performance stage and a coffee shop with free wireless Internet. (The stage and cafe are in separate parts of the building so you don't get the background noise with coffee grinders, blenders and espresso machines as in other places, I have read. There is nothing worse that that.) I have been to Business networking meetings where as a presenter, I was limited to what I could do by the location in that there wasn't Internet available of any kind, including GSM/cell. Of course I am thinking of the possibilities of Internet to support the Poetry Lab event Steve has talked about for April.
"The Soundry has more of an industrial feel than the "tea an biscuts" (Peace's words) literary feel of that in Reston. However, that is what makes it really appealing. The moment that you walk through the door, your realize that this is a different kind of place, set aside for those who create. As you walk the winding art lined path back to the performance room, you get the distinct impression that you are about to become part of the communal, artistic, organic life-form that is the Soundry.
This is an open mic event, that really has a mic. Unless you can project your voice really well -- because of the size of the space, and the semi industrial accoustics and at times the heater kicks on. when reading there, one should consider that its use is not optional, as people will not be able to hear everything you are saying otherwise.
On a side note, the small coffee shop at the Soundry makes a good cup of coffee (free refills) that is distinguished by the lack of Starbuckian, or Carrabou Coffeean stigmas of corporate branding. The protective cardboard cup ring that prevents you from burning your fingers, blatantly reads "F*CK THE MACHINE", which helps the coffee taste that much better.
It is a significant event. A place to bring newly written poetry, let it rip, and press upon the boundaries of poetry that are often limited by what you can do in a coffeehouse or other place of business."
A fuse was lit that night. Burning FAST