By Ian MacAllen on Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 9:04 am
The New York City Reading Series Census is an ongoing project to catalogue the contemporary literary scene. Any reading series curator in the New York area can take the survey here.
What is the name of the series, and what is the significance or meaning of the series name?
Well, it’s in all caps. FREE WATER. The name itself is loud. Like a RITE-AID sign whose bulbs are shot. RI E- ID. That’s good. FREE WATER is tongue and cheek and FREE WATER is a lazy political statement. I also love the way it sounds.
Who founded the series, and who runs it now?
I (Britt Melewski) founded the series and continue to run it on my own.
What genres or mediums does the series include?
The series, thus far, has been one of only poetry. But it’s open to anything. Rachel Eliza Griffiths has read— she takes lovely photos. Andy Mister and Bianca Stone are brilliant visual artists. Rigoberto Gonzalez writes lovely prose. I’m open and interested in the guest artists reading whatever they want, doing whatever they want, expressing themselves however they’d like to.
What is the format of the series?
I say a few things. The artist does something, usually reads. Break for drinks. Repeat.
Where does the series take place?
KGB BAR! 85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003! Second floor!
When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?
Since I run the thing on my own, I’ve been going every-other-month. Medium insanity as opposed to insanity. But I’ve been asked by FOUR WAY BOOKS to do a few special events which has made for a few runs where it’s been once a month. I’m interested in partnering with other organizations to fill in the “off-months” with FREE WATER activities.
How long has the series been active?
Been going strong since June 6th 2014.
Where can people find information about series on the web?
Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?
A Frankenstein monster. I have received submissions and they have been wonderful. I welcome them, always. But, for the most part, this series has been an exciting ride down Curator Road. There are so many great artists in the city, outside the city and passing through. There are other wonderful reading series in the city too. I try to interact as much as I can. I was introduced to Angel Nafis at the Franklin Park reading series and had the top of my head sawed off. That head injury, I suppose, was solicited. Angel just read at the latest FREE WATER and it was just too good. Am I answering this question? Stop.
Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?
The series started by accident. I was putting together a few readings for Nancy Esposito, a wonderful poet and friend as she was launching her fourth book. There were some travel complications and she couldn’t make it down from Boston. Instead of canceling, FREE WATER was born. I came out of the Rutgers-Newark MFA program, a program that taught me that the best writing happens when many different voices are present at the table. FREE WATER’s goal has always been to feature artists of color, women and artists representing the LGBTQ community. This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I want the evening itself to be one that people remember. I want people to take something home with them. I want something to change within a listener’s brain tissue. The space isn’t mine. It belongs to the artists; it’s the community’s.
What distinguishes the series from others?
I honestly couldn’t tell you. I black out from nerves and anxiety and Rolling Rock. Have you ever cooked thanksgiving dinner? From 9am until people leave it’s sweat and hurry and tasting the gravy. I barely get to experience the holiday when I cook. Hosting a night of FREE WATER is similar. I put a lot of energy and effort to make sure people are having an interesting evening, they are hydrated and comfortable. I want the show to have a flow, displacement. So yea, I come to and people are leaving or lingering with another drink before they push on into the vastness. I usually ask my partner: how did it go? Her answers have been very positive.
The next FREE WATER is scheduled for Friday, October 16, 2015, at KGB and features Hala Alyan, Tyehimba Jess, Lynn Emanuel, and Christopher DeWeese.
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