Monday, June 7, 2010

dirty laundry

Curating a series is not for the faint of heart. Neither is hosting the series. Any number of things can happen to change one's plans; 2 foot blizzards can cancel events, for example. Features might fail to show up. Sociopaths might come and pretend to be poets in order to slime an audience with their filth - wait, I just had to deal with this one.

When an audience goes from over a dozen women one month to ZERO women the following month, you know there's a problem. I identified the problem right away : a "poet" in the open reading segment of the series was sleazing the audience with his, um, "art". I knew I had to do something. Don't get me wrong : I am a strong believer in freedom of speech. However, one's right to offend doesn't have blanket protection when as a host it drives people out the door. A "poet" screaming about being censored is not protected when he assaults the audience. There are limits. People who attend events at least ought to be warned that they MIGHT be abused - no, actually, no they ought not be subjected to abuse. There is no component within the Poetry Lab FOR abuse. And to heap abuse on women specifically is totally unacceptable.

I have written provocative and sexual material but I would never read these pieces in a room with small children in it. Some people seem to believe that their right to write obscene material trumps a person's right not to be exposed to said material. I have a wife and a daughter, I am sensitive to these sort of woman hating poisonous barbs.

And as host, I won't stand for it. The very nature of the Poetry Lab is to be slightly off-kilter. Granted. But don't attend with your venom towards women, or gays, or afro-americans, or arabs - leave it at home or leave yourself at home. You won't get your 5 minutes here.

curator and host
The Poetry Lab
Vienna, VA

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that you had to deal with this, Steve, but it sounds like you handled it well. I strongly believe that a good host protects his audience. Indeed, an audience looks toward the host to rule over their venue to a certain extent: we want the host to intervene when a reader goes over time. We want a host to pull performers who are inappropriate. In this case, we actually don't want a democratic process: we want a fair, consistent, benevolent dictator.