English Kills Review contributor Britt Melewski launched a new poetry series entitled Free Water. These readings occur every other month at the KGB Bar in New York City’s East Village. With Free Water, Melewski strives to bring together various voices to a place that is both welcoming and captivating. This young series already delivers on that intention. The environment at a Free Water reading is engaging, smart, and funny. It seems to call out to us: Come on in; the water’s fine.
Free Water came into being after Melewski attempted to create a book launch reading for his mentor and former teacher, Nancy Esposito. Unfortunately, Esposito was not able to attend. Because Melewski still had the space at KGB reserved, he “shuffled to try and save the original vision, but that failed.” He noted, “I got some good advice to just keep the June 6th date and make something out of it and that’s what—with a lot of help—I did. Everything seems to work similarly to a cocktail with fate, coincidence, and dumbness as the mixers.”
And so began the delicious cocktail that is Free Water.
Free Water’s name easily showcases the wit of the series itself. When asked about its birth, Melewski responded, “We spent a fortune. We had the greatest minds of my generation working on it. Focus groups and unpaid interns. Dana Jaye Cadman, Jon Corcoran, Kiira Mancasola all helped me out in the war room. But the decision in the end was mine to keep it as Free Water. It’s a lazy political statement as well as a backhanded joke. Almost slapstick. Of course the water at the bar will be free. Duh.” This cheeky response illustrates the humor and poetry of Melewski’s mind. He continued to say the name is a way to help get “meat in the seats” and beautifully added, “I also think it has a nice ring to it. Everything is sound.”
Everything is sound for Melewski, the Free Water readers, and the people who attend. When asked about the goals for the series, Melewski replied, “I want people there to engage with these special people and their work. Another layer of goal-like tissue would probably be my desire to showcase a wide variety of voices and worldviews. Queer voices, voices of color, writers who also work in visual arts. I want people to be confident that every time they brave a free water reading they will be offered different compelling scripts.”
In the most recent reading on August 14th, three poets shared work from their different compelling scripts: Ana Božičević, Andy Mister, and Paige Taggart. (Eduardo C Corral was scheduled to be the fourth reader but was unable to attend). Similar to Melewski’s own style and true to his purpose for the series, each poet generously shared their art and their jokes. The atmosphere that Melewski established and the readers fostered turned a night at the bar into an intimate gathering of friends.
Paige Taggart, the author of four chapbooks, kicked off the reading by advising the audience not to wear platforms to read at KGB, then she kicked off her shoes and began. She read from her full-length collections Want for Lion (Trembling Pillow Press) and the forthcoming Or Replica (Brooklyn Arts Press), and her poems ranged from topics of Foucault and celebrity photos to sex and surfing. Her sincerity and esprit could be felt within each line. Whether she was asserting, “I’m a gateway drug,” describing fireflies in jars of butter as “a kind of almost math,” or claiming “poets like to write about foxes,” she kept the audience engaged.
Andy Mister read next from his first book Liner Notes (Station Hill). He mentioned that he used to pretend to be nervous before readings just in case he messed up so he could chalk it up to nerves, but then admitted this time he was nervous since he had not read in a while. This honesty carried through his reading when he later confessed to Googling himself, and it coincided with his work, as he shared narrative poems about writing, relationships, and depression. His use of dialogue and character moved each poem, and his truth in his sentences kept listeners thinking, as he informed us that “hope is only possible at the edge of the body.”
Ana Božičević, a Lambda award winner and author of Stars of the Night Commute (Tarpauline Sky Press) and Rise in the Fall (Birds, LLC), closed the night with witty poems and jokes in between. She described her work as “weird” and shared short poems regarding social media, the self, and communication. She read poems with titles such as “The Best Text Poem in the World” and “How to Grow a Painting.” Her lines mused, “Come back to me as emoji or a star” and “for years I thought I could art my way back.”
The night’s line up proves that Melewski is accomplishing what he set out to do. His authors range in terms of background, culture, and style, but they all share his excitement, humor, and heart. To further epitomize this series, when asked what inspired Melewski to start it, he stated, “I wanted to get famous and make a lot of money because I love fame and even more love money.” In true Free Water fashion, Melewski began with a joke but added further depth and thought to his process: “But in reality I wanted to start something. I can’t redo engines, I can’t knit, I can’t divide fractions, but I figured, I know–at least through other people– the most fantastic poets in America. I don’t love anything more than my loves, baseball and poetry so I figured I’d make another poetry THING.”
Melewski’s creation is artful, thirst quenching fun. His own excitement for poetry is palpable as he introduces each reader, jokes with the audience, and imbibes in waters—well, okay, beers— throughout the night. He has achieved his goals by getting people in the seats to hear fantastic poets, and this is only the beginning. To find out more, follow Free Water on Facebook or on Twitter @FreeWaterArts. The next Free Water reading will feature Jericho Brown, Cynthia Cruz, Samspon Starkweather and Nancy Esposito on October 28th. Come on in to KGB and indulge in Free Water* and poetry.**
*Additional drinks of the nonwater variety vary in price. Tip not included.
**Poetry is free, but please be advised you may laugh, cry, or let out a pensive poetry sigh. KGB is not responsible for your reaction to this product.