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Guest Post: 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series in New Orleans’ French Quarter by Megan Burns

Poetry readings and events can be found across America, and while poetry may seem like it only happens in April, that is not the case.  I also suspect that poetry events happen across the globe at many different times and months during the year.

Today’s guest post is from Megan Burns from Solid Quarter — where she blogs about poetry and the New Orleans Poetry Community — and independent poetry publisher Trembling Pillow Press, and she’s going to talk about a reading series in New Orleans.  Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

Co-host of 17 Poets! Dave Brinks reading with Beat poet Ruth Weiss (April, 2012)

To celebrate National Poetry month and Serena’s guest blog tour, I wanted to share a bit about running a reading series in New Orleans for the last nine years. My husband poet Dave Brinks and I started 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series in 2003 shortly after our daughter Mina was born. We feature one to two poets every Thursday evening followed by an open mic with a limit of 17 sign ups, hence the 17 Poets! name. Over the last nine years, we’ve had a chance to bring to New Orleans and the writing community here a wide variety of poets from translators like Bill Zavatsky and Pierre Joris to performance poets like Anne Waldman and Nicole Peyrafitte. We’ve enjoyed Alice Notley, Jerome Rothenberg, and Bill Berkson as well as frequent visits from Bernadette Mayer, Simon Pettet, and Andrei Codrescu. One of the highlights over the last nine years was a two-night special event with a Romanian group of teachers and students who traveled to New Orleans to perform in conjunction with New Orleans poets, writers and puppeteers. We have staged multimedia collaborations, puppet shows, Butoh performances and most recently a Brass Band performance with Beat poet Ruth Weiss who returned to New Orleans for the first time in 51 years.

An archive of photographs from our events prior to 2006 can be found over at the Big Bridge New Orleans Anthology.

Poet John Sinclair reading at 17 Poets! (Sept. 2011)

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures crippled New Orleans, 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series was the first poetry event held in New Orleans in October of 2005. We had a packed house of writers and poets, and we suspended the open mic limit to let everyone come to the microphone and share their words. The recording for this event called “Still Standing” was excerpted in a 2010 AWP Panel about post-Katrina Poetry. In 2006, the Jim Lehrer show came to New Orleans to record a reprisal of that night, and once again poets of New Orleans came out in full force to speak about their experiences. The show planned on taping just enough to fill the 8-10 minutes needed for the production, but instead they taped the entire two hour event even knowing they couldn’t use it all.

Poet Bernadette Mayer reading at 17 Poets! (Nov. 2011)

Personally, the reading series and space has over the years provided an important resource for our community. Every year we are surprised and humbled by the number of international and national poets who request to read at our space. For the New Orleans community, we continue to see more collaborations and more experimentation with each passing year. We’ve witnessed countless growths of projects as well as the amazing growth of writers as they continue to hone their craft. Many times, poet have said they felt safe and supported in this space while trying something new to their work or simply just showing up to be inspired while listening or sharing a new piece. Every week, the series keeps me tuned into the fact that poetry is about people, first and foremost. If you’re in New Orleans, be sure to pass by.

Thanks, Megan, for sharing this poetry reading series with us. Now, we can say that New Orleans is much more than Jazz and Blues.

Please check out their Facebook Page, Twitter, and YouTube.  If you’re interested in winning a copy of the Trembling Pillow Press Journals, enter here.

  • this sounds like it was a wonderful event.

  • Sounds like a great way to learn about new poets. I bet the event after Hurricane Katrina was very moving.

  • Sometimes I just know that I’m missing out on so much culture by living in the sticks, while other times I can’t wait to get away from the city when visiting!! This sounds wonderful and what a great way to spend an evening!