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?
The name of the series is, The Greetings Readings Series at Unnameable Bokes; the series is named after the literary journal, Greetings: a Journal of the Sound Arts.
Where does the series take place? How long has the series been active?
The series has been held at a variety of venues since 2001, from the basement of an Argentine Restaurant to the Cornelia Street Café to the Bowery Poetry Bar but since 2009 or thereabouts its been held at Unnameable Books – the original store, located on Bergen Street in Park Slope, was actually called Adam’s Books but as the name was all ready in use, apparently by an “adult” bookstore with proprietary rights, Adam Tobin changed the name to what people know & love it for today when he moved to his present location on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
Who founded the series, and who runs it now? What genres or mediums does the series include? What is the format of the series?
I [Jeffrey Joe Nelson] founded the journal but after nearly going broke putting out a 300 +page initially uncollated & unbound (what a nightmare) double issue I was joined by Jed Shahar. Together Jed & I revamped the reading series from a kind of orchestrated “happening” to a literary three ring circus to what we do now – 2 to 3 performers, poet heavy, with either musicians, comedians, actors, essayists, fictionistas, film directors etc performing in between the literary performances, a sort of palette cleanser for the oracular, aural & visual senses.
Performing time varies. 20 minutes is the general rule, but I find most poets who know their mettle can knock an audience out of their chairs with a well versed 7 – 10 minute performance. However, that being said, some poets you just want to hear more of & indeed bear further listening.
Musicians and other artists often take the full twenty minutes. One of the biggest inspirations for creating this series was my exposure (it was almost frightening how amazing those events could be) to Brendan Lorber’s Lungful Series at the Houston street address of the old Zinc Bar, where he and Douglas Rothchild (sic) held court for many years at 7:23 every Sunday evening: bless them for their openness, tenacity and surreal hi-jinks.
When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?
This series runs only in the Fall & Spring of each year, usually from late September to early December and then Late April to Late June & is traditionally held on Thursdays when the beating of a large drum serves as the convocation for the evening’s events, rain or shine. When the weather is pleasant we meet outside in the white rock garden, when inclement weather threatens we hunker into the intimate book-lined basement.
Where can people find information about series on the web?
We post the line-up for each season on our website, greetingsreadings.org, (or maybe we will this year) where we also keep an archive with downloads of each of the poets & the introductions (many performed by me) as well as Polaroid portraits and other ephemera such as flyers and announcements. I also keep a mailing list whose listees are sent our seasonal announcements. Often UDP (Ugly Duckling Presse) – thank you! – will help us out by announcing some of our events on their website.
Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?
Generally, we solicit the artists who perform with us. We do look at any submissions that come our way, but encourage people who are interested in performing with us, to come to an event, or several, in order to understand firsthand what they are inviting themselves into. In the process introduce yourself to Jed & I, let us know you’d be interested in performing at the series.
Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?
Our series aims to respect all people’s rights to perform, to change, and to exercise their freedom of speech. We seek to create an atmosphere of eclecticism in regard to poetic and artistic style, welcoming all comers, doing our best to provide a safe & accessible space while also bringing a sense of levity and humor to the arts.
The goal in starting Greetings was to find/generate a community of like minded people and after nearly 15 years of Greetings Readings the goals remains the same – create a safe and open community where performers are free to express themselves to their peers and anyone else whoso wishes to participate by bearing witness.
I have heard some participants say that this series is their church (without all the blood and hegemony – can’t have everything!). If that were true then I suppose the Muse (or Muses) would be the beings worshipped, messengers of the divine, of inspiration replete.
Jeffrey Joe Nelson
Curator & Co-conspirator of Greetings Reading Series at Unnameable Bokes
The next season for Greetings Readings begins on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at Unnameable Books, and features Elizabeth Clark Wessel, Chet Kozlowski, L.L.O. and Holly Melgard.