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?
I feel it’s always been a bit of an identity crisis, our name. We, the reading series, are also we, the literary journal, The Atlas Review. At times I have called what the reading series is simply The Atlas Reading Series. Other times, I call it—even more simply—Atlas. When I ask people to read for the series, I explain that we are a journal that publishes work in all genre biannually and, to supplement our volumes, we have a monthly reading series. The series of Atlas helps to keep the journal of Atlas on the map, as it were. Are maps involved in the reading series? Nope. But if you want to involve a map, we’ve got a whole multimedia option for your set.
Who founded the series, and who runs it now?
Well, I [Natalie Eilbert] founded The Atlas Review in 2012 and thought to include a reading series in the mess of things. Poet and performance artist extraordinaire Monica McClure was part of these conversations and she ran the series for a long while as I dealt with the editorial side of things. Then she needed to step away to write this really amazing book (omg you should read Tender Data), and to quote the movie Captain Phillips, I am the captain now.
What genres or mediums does the series include?
Any and all, but honestly poetry is the most popular. For almost 30 consecutive monthly events, as in, from its conception, we tasked all of our invited readers to work alongside visual artists either of their choosing or our curation in order to create visual work for the night of the event. It was really really really hard to manage. But. I must emphasize we did it without a hitch for 30 consecutive months. That’s four writers of any genre and four artists of any medium, working together. It was beyond herding cats. It was herding cats who wanted to juggle other cats while they sniffed other cats and crows and chalk. Anyway, it was really fun. But now it’s just a straightforward series with a multimedia option. I just got too tired.
What is the format of the series?
Standard mic-and-amp. I host. There are four to five readers. There’s a break. There is sometimes a projector. We sell books. We drink. 61 Local has really scrumptious grilled cheese sandwiches that are basically part of the format of the series, in that I am always eating them while I set up the upstairs performance space.
Where does the series take place?
When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?
It’s a monthly series. We have taken one month off once but that was to do another event on another island.
Where can people find information about series on the web?
Oh oh, you can find it by going to our Atlas Review FB page, or you can find that same information on our website. I have recently become okay at updating said website with our event information—though I see I haven’t updated it in two months. WELP.
Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?
Mostly we solicit material. On rare occasions, if a writer is passing through, we’ll consider booking them. But I really do want to invoke the power of the curator here and say that we are looking for performers who can really energize a room with their combined styles.
Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?
The goal used to be: Get people thinking about the magazine with the series. But that was when we first started. Piggybacking off the last question, I am extremely unforgiving when it comes to series not diversifying their readers. You mean to tell me you live in New York City and you consistently have only white readers at your series? You’re telling me this isn’t even a critical consideration? Fuck that noise. The most important thing I can do is give writers of any and all aesthetics a platform, so long as it’s going to drive my mind off the walls. Which it does. Every time. There is simply no excuse to operate otherwise. My rule: There can never be more white readers to POC readers. If I’m in a situation where this happens—even if all the readers happen to be women—I get very upset with myself. I hold myself completely accountable for how that situation played out. This is where I get the most righteous, and I’m completely okay with that.
What distinguishes the series from others?
Our occasional multimedia element, our range of readers, our series as a representation of our magazine and vice versa, my heady attitude about diversity, grilled cheese, exposed brick. Performers you might expect to read at a NYC reading mixed heavily with performers you haven’t heard of yet but holy shit will you ever.
The next Atlas reading (XXXI) is scheduled for Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 at Local 61 at 7 p.m., and will feature Jasmine Gibson, Christine Shan Shan Hou, Alice Kim, and Jay Deshpande.