The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
I’m noticing a lot of literary events that don’t look much like traditional readings – and it’s about damned time. There’s a frequent rotation of competitions these days: L.A.-based Literary Death Match has been making regular Twin Cities appearances for years now, and story and poetry slams are huge around here (St. Paul’s Soap Boxing Poetry Slam team won the National Poetry Slam two years running, 2009 and 2010). Upstart lit mags are getting in on the act, too. "Revolver" magazine has hosted some fine verbal sparring (their Write Fight event, in particular, was a highlight of the recent Northern Spark). And the many-tentacled publishing outfit, Paper Darts, routinely blows regular-old author events out of the water with a variety of clever, drink-infused writerly events for the arts-and-letters set.
Speaking of which: the Paper Darts Pop-Up, “a storefront for storytellers,” has taken up residence in SooLOCAL in Minneapolis this summer, and will play host to near-daily events, including a wide array of programming jointly hosted with some 25 partner organizations across the cities. The lit-mag’s ephemeral HQ is in operation from June 1 through July 20. This week, I’ve saved the date for Paper Darts’ joint event with Story City, a storytelling series and podcast founded by two Macalester College folks (one of them a StoryCorps veteran). Story City hosts live events featuring amateur and professional raconteurs alike, each one recounting a real-life story on the night’s theme. These events migrate across various venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Story City’s next show, “Escape,” will feature “five true stories of freedom and everything we'll do to get it,” as read by five local writers whose tales will be illustrated, on-site and as they read, by area artists. It’s smart cross-pollination and promises to be a fun spectacle to boot.
Story City’s next live storytelling event, “Escape,” will take place in the Paper Darts Pop-Up on Saturday, June 29 at 8 p.m. at SooLOCAL, 3506 Nicollet Ave. So., Minneapolis. Admission is free and open to the public. The Moth - "True Stories Told Live" - takes place regularly in cities around the country, and twice a month in St. Paul.
It’s also worth noting the assortment of literary open mic nights local yarn-spinners have to choose from. Two very different long-running series deserve particular mention, and both have something coming up just this week. The Moth StorySLAM hosts regular open-mic storytelling slams in select cities nationwide, including two contests each month in St. Paul’s Amsterdam Bar and Hall. They’re open to anyone with a five-minute story to share on the night’s theme; would-be storytellers put their names in the Moth hat, from which ten are drawn to take a turn on stage. Their stories are scored by teams of judges selected from the audience, who name a victor. The night’s StorySLAM winner is eligible to go on to compete in a future GrandSLAM championship, where s/he will face off against nine other such StorySLAM winners.
The next Moth StorySLAM, featuring stories on the theme “Fathers,” takes place Wednesday, June 26 at Amsterdam Bar and Hall; doors open at 7 p.m., stories begin at 7:30 pm. Advance tickets are $8 and available online: http://themoth.org/events/event/fathers-6. Walt Whitman, patron saint of the monthly open mic at Coffee Grounds in St. Paul, Barbaric Yawp. Photo courtesy of Christopher Title and Barbaric Yawp
The other open mic I'll mention, Barbaric Yawp, is much more intimate and writer-driven – the sort of gathering where regulars often turn up to share new material. The monthly open mic is a bastion of Hamline MFA alums, instructors and their friends, but it's open to all comers and well worth checking out. Hosted monthly at The Coffee Grounds in St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood by poet Christopher Title, the mood is informal and inviting: “Participants read their own work or that which they admire in five-minute slots, or thereabouts.”
The next Barbaric Yawp event will be Sunday, June 30, 6:30 pm at The Coffee Grounds, 1579 Hamline Ave., St. Paul. Admission is free and open to the public. All genres are welcome; bring something to read, if you like – your own writing or someone else's. Keep track of the Barbaric Yawp open mic series on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbaric.yawp.7.