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?
Our series is called the Dead Rabbits Reading Series, Dead Rabbits NYC, for short. I wish I could say that there was something wholly meaningful or metaphoric about the name, but really it’s simply because I (Devin) had just finished watching Gangs of New York for the umpteenth time when I asked Katie and Katie if they wanted to go in together on this reading series venture with me. It seemed fitting, somehow, the name. Or it just seemed cool at the time. But it stuck, for better or worse. There’s a bar downtown called The Dead Rabbit, and it’s been there forever, so that’s led to some lovely confusion. But we roll with it.
Who founded the series, and who runs it now?
It was a collective endeavor. I got the idea on a lazy Monday morning, as the story goes. And then passed the idea onto Katie Longofono, who supported it wholeheartedly, and we then very quickly asked Katie Rainey, and the three of us, within the span of say, an hour or two, were co-founders of a reading series. And I’m proud to say we’re still running it together now. The three of us each have distinct joys when it comes to literature, and we share in a lot of them, and we disagree on some, but our differences allow us to approach each submission or each possible solicited author differently, and it’s worked well so far.
What genres or mediums does the series include?
All of them! And we encourage invention, or breaking rules, or bending forms. I’d say we do feature poetry a little more than nonfiction or fiction, but that’s simply because we do get a lot more poetry submissions. But we’re very unbiased when it comes to form or genre. Anything that screams at us or cries at us or whispers to us, and so on and so on. It’s been lovely to encounter such a vast array of work, and to be trusted with it.
What is the format of the series?
We try to feature established local writers alongside emerging ones, so each reading has anywhere from 2 to 3 “featured readers,” and we fill out the remainder of the lineup with writers who submit to us via email. There’s usually 6 readers total, per reading, and each reader gets roughly 8 minutes to read. We have an intermission after the first 3 readers where we play some ~dirty~ Mad Libs, which can be very fun or very strange. Very something. And we end the reading with various fun things, from trivia about the readers to raffles to some new things we are dreaming up. We also pride ourselves on introducing each reader with more than just the bio they send us. We like to show that we care, and that we’ve read their work, and that the audience would be remiss not to give each reader their full and wonderful attention.
Where does the series take place?
Dead Rabbits finds its home at DTUT, a bar and cafe on the Upper East Side, right on 91st and 2nd Avenue. They do drink specials for us, and the bartenders there are super supportive and really great. And there are couches! They also just renovated the place, which is exciting.
When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?
We took a summer break the past few months to breathe a little bit, and because a large cohort of our submissions and attendees and readers come from local MFA programs, so we kind of viewed it as a respite for all of us. I also think we were shocked that the series had made it from its first upstart reading in September 2014 all the way into the next year, which is amazing, and makes us all feel really grateful. But we are back this September 13th, and will be on our usual monthly schedule. We try to aim for the second Sunday of each month, though sometimes it’s the third or fourth. But it’s always on a Sunday. And it’s each month. And it’s at DTUT.
How long has the series been active?
As I said above, our first reading was in September 2014, so this coming reading will mark our one year anniversary!
Where can people find information about series on the web?
Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?
We do both! We solicit a couple featured readers for each reading, and we take submissions on a rolling basis at our email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions we receive up until about 2 weeks before our next scheduled reading will be considered for that upcoming reading. We ask prose writers to limit their submissions to 1,500 words and poets to limit theirs to 3 poems, and for each writer to put the genre of their submission in the title of the email.
Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?
I think we came at the series, each of us, from a very organic perspective. We became friends in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence, and the friendships we developed there were developed over the course of long nights, low light, alcohol, and a lack of pretense. Conversations in backyards, around kitchen tables, on couches. But lots of conversations. And lots of “hey can you let me know what you think of this?” And lots of honesty. And lots of jokes. And I think we wanted to create a series that didn’t just showcase our perspective of art as an unpretentious, delightful thing, but also fostered an environment that shared in the joy of good people and good words together. And I think, more than anything, we aim to make that the continuous, ongoing goal of the series, whatever may happen. We don’t want to make this a publicity stunt, an ego-booster. We want the series to always remain a place where someone can stumble in and encounter someone or something or some word, where our readers know that the three of us care about their work, and where, most of all, we have fun in all of this openness.
What distinguishes the series from others?
This is a tough question, because I think that each reading series is doing good work for writers and good work for their specific communities. But Dead Rabbits is a special thing. It’s fun, it’s high energy, it’s run by three fuck-ups who refuse to lose themselves in the cynicism of the literary underworld of New York City. So, we can’t promise you anything but a drink, maybe a couch if you get there early enough, some awkwardly possibly disturbingly funny Mad Libs, and 6 readers whose words moved us so much that we need you to hear them, for your sake and theirs. And that’s it. There’s nothing else we can promise you. As I said before, we’re not a place that was founded on any sort of pretense. We’re a place of delight and joy and sorrow and sharing in all of that, and giving voice and advocating for all writers who are about that.
The next Dead Rabbits Reading Series event is Sunday, September 13, 2015, at DTUT bar & cafe, at 8 p.m., and features Aaron Poochigian, Angel Nafis, Cooper Wilhelm, James Fitzpatrick, Storm Thomas and Leigh Stein.