2013 Winners Reading Series Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Reading Series Contest! Please note that this contest is judged and organized by: Melissa Burton (Founder, Contest Coordinator and Organizer, Judge), Dana Livermore (Fundraiser, Promoter, Judge), Erin Lynch (Fundraiser, Promoter, Judge), Chris Beard (Judge), Trista Edwards (Judge), Kyle McCord (Judge)

This contest was judged entirely on nominations. The quality of the types of nominations  made the difference!

First Place: Bad Blood Reading Series ($400)

Second Place: The Three Tents Reading Series ($200)

Upcoming Reading – May 12

Readers Include: Roxane Gay, Elliot Holt, Tracy Dimond

Third Place: Cheap Beer & Prose ($50)

Third Place: Strange Cage ($50)


Here are a handful of reviews for each reading series!

Bad Blood Reading Series

“The readings are carried out in galleries and woodworking art shops. One of the founders makes little chapbooks for each reading, signed by the poets. The introductions are almost as fun as hearing the latest new work from the newest (or already well-established) poets. I travel 2 hours on public transit just to attend the readings.”

“Bad Blood makes poetry exciting and accessible for the poet and devoted reader of poetry, as well as the passerby or the casual reader of the occasional poem, through their intriguing curation, as well as their laid-back attitude. They feature local poets, especially featuring newly published writers, and visiting talents. While poets they host are not always my preference in their style, tone, or use of language, I always learn something about contemporary poetry, and feel that the experience was rewarding. Furthermore, their offering of broadsides by donation allows anyone to take a few poems home at the end of the night. It is exciting to have a venue to meet and talk with other individuals who care deeply for the written and spoken word, and Bad Blood is one of Portland’s strongest venues for this.”

“Before the Bad Blood reading series, Portland’s poetry scene wasn’t nonexistent, but it was invisible: limited in scope to small-scale slam events & open-mic nights. As an institution in Portland, OR — which it became almost immediately — the Bad Blood reading series is bringing poetry to a crowd which fits it naturally: the hip urban creative youth, hundreds of whom attend the series when it meets every several months. Bad Blood’s ties to the small-press system run deep, & it is intimately connected with Octopus Books & Poor Claudia, two imprints whose books are of uniform quality. Because of its size — formidable but not overwhelming, a crowd of friends and friends of friends — it attracts the best poets and performers, both local and nation-wide. As much as possible Bad Blood is in the business (or the pleasure) of turning its poet-readers into celebrities, because this is how poetry will expand its audience & sustain itself in a world which increasingly finds it superfluous.”

“Formed in Fall 2010 by Drew Swenhaugen, Joseph Mains, and Zachary Schomburg, the Bad Blood reading series has done a remarkable job of bringing innovative contemporary poets to Portland, OR — and turning out a remarkably diverse and enthusiastic audience. Every reading is like a party, and poets are treated like rock stars. The series is remarkable for attracting well established poets from across the nation and pairing them with up-and-coming locals. What’s more, they regularly turn out 100 or more audience members from across ages and genres. I moved to Portland in 2009 from New York, and frequently call the city a “poetry disneyland” for its good bookstores and well established series like Spare Room. Bad Blood adds an exciting dimension to the Portland poetry landscape, making poetry readings into celebrations.”

 The Three Tents Reading Series

“Mark Cugini is one of the most passionate advocates for literature and readings that I’ve ever met. As soon as I got to Three Tents, I found myself in a giant bar basement that felt like a speakeasy, jammed to the rafters with at least 100 people. Not only did Mark go out of his way to make sure my reading fit well with the other readers, but I was also blown away by his passionate introductions and his earnest belief that the reading would bring the Washington, DC literary community together. It was an incredible event, and I say that as someone who also curates a reading series. I’d rather nominate Mark for this than my own reading series because I know he will make the best use of the funds and has huge plans that will only benefit the literary community in DC and across the country.”

“Many people view Washington, DC as an officious, soul-deadening, artless maze of bureaucratic self-involvement. They’re basically right. One of the few things here that consistently bucks that trend is the Three Tents Reading Series. Three Tents means that for two hours a month, we can grab a few beers in an affordable, comfortable bar and talk to 30 or 40 nice people while listening to some pretty rad writers, none of whom concern themselves with committee meetings, fundraising, or crotch sniffing (unless they do so in an artful way). I love Three Tents because it is decidedly not a DC thing; it’s an event without a drop of pretension in a town that basically builds itself on pretension.  Of course there’s more to it than just that. I love Three Tents because it lets me see and hear writers I admire, but also because it introduces me to writers I’ve gone on to admire. I love Three Tents because it’s eclectic: poets, fiction, experimental, realistic—they cover all the bases. I almost always leave the thing a few bucks lighter because I shell out for so many books.”

“In a very short time Three Tents has established itself as the best reading series in DC, which is saying a lot. In addition to a number of other reading series supporting the indie lit community, DC also boasts series hosted by the likes of PEN Faulkner and the Library of Congress. Despite their small means, Three Tents consistently brings in the most anticipated up and coming poets and fiction writers. That they pair these writers with local MFA students is a boon to the community and has really brought the scene together. As a former reading series coordinator, I don’t know how Mark and his team do it. Three Tents is the meet up spot for anyone in DC interested in literary fiction or poetry.”

“I’ve lived in Washington, DC for seven years, and before Mark Cugini and Big Lucks brought this reading series to town, there was truly a lack of good reading opportunities (both for readers and for writers), especially for indie lit writers. Indie bookstores here either had no reading series (like Kramerbooks) or only featured nationally known and mostly political writers and personalities. As someone who is passionate about indie literature and great poetry and fiction, I could not be more excited about what Three Tents means to this community and to this town. Mark Cugini focuses on bringing a variety of readers, from all over the country and at various stages in their careers, from beginner to seasoned pro – and each reading also features a local creative writing student, in order to give new opportunities to those just starting out as well as to introduce university students to the rich and diverse indie lit community in DC. Whoever the readers, every reading is top notch – and that’s no doubt why the Big Hunt, where the readings happen, is always packed on Sunday nights for these events. They are always standing room only, and the highlight of the literary event schedule around here.”

Strange Cage

“Russell Jaffe, in running Strange Cage, has provided an incredible opportunity for developing writers in a city with lots of writers and not-lots of opportunities. As an undergraduate, the chance to read on a real stage with published authors meant a whole lot to me, and it’s important that Strange Cage continues to provide such chances. Russell is basically running the whole show himself, and gives people at my level a shot to prove themselves, but it’s still a high-profile event that garners great writers from all around the country. Strange Cage is everything I love about the literature scene.”

“Strange Cage is a breath of fresh air in Iowa City, a town already saturated by writers and reading series.  Russell Jaffee, Lesley Wheeler, and Karl McComas Reichl always manage to fill their bill with a variety of dynamic readers whose poetry and delivery wake up the often more jaded audiences.  They have also managed to create a community that breaks down the town/gown boundaries that seem so fixed into the Iowa City way of life.  Poets from the Iowa Writers Workshop read alongside undergraduates, community college students, teachers, parents, and other community members.  It has been a real pleasure to watch this reading series grow so big in such a short period of time.”

“I have yet to miss one of the ten Strange Cage reading events, and they are events, in the vein of a Wrestlemania, and like Wrestlemania, it is a spectacle. Tame it is not. It is a whirlwind, and Russell Jaffe (the ringmaster) reins everything in nicely. He supports local, burgeoning talent, encouraging undergraduate poets and the unpublished to read, and more often than not the selections are very deft. Russell also includes top billed, main event poets such as Robyn Schiff, Joyelle McSweeney, Nick Demske, and Steve Roggenbuck, many of them traveling from other states to participate in the series, and even if they do not have any books to promote. This mix of the high and the low, the near and the far is what gives SC its flavor, like a Dorito, you cannot stop eating them because you can’t figure out exactly what it tastes like and you love it. SC is also one of the most highly attended reading series I’ve been to, each venue is always packed with poetry fanatics. SC gets my highest recommendation, and I know Russell can use the money to buy his own PA and bring more poets into town to contribute to this Iowa City event.”

“Strange Cage publishes chapbooks and has a reading series. The reading series is primarily run by Russell Jaffe, as the other two creators of Strange Cage live in a different city. Russell is a force of joy. He works his ass off to promote poetry and community. He loves the world and wants you to listen to it. The Strange Cage readings promote different venues and businesses in downtown Iowa City; bring in interesting readers from out of town; put undergraduate, graduate, community and super-famous poets on the same stage; and provide a great night for a great time. Help Strange Cage keep up the good fun work.”

Cheap Beer & Prose

“Too often, readings feel self-referential, taking themselves so seriously that they devolve into an evolved form of public solipsism. Cheap Beer & Prose’s name belies its ethos: come here for fun, and we’ll give you literature. The night I read, people were standing the aisles, cracking beers and jokes and clapping, and then falling silent when it was time to listen, only to erupt in laughter again. It felt like a party, and the people we were celebrating were actually in the audience, doing the Texas two step with our characters. People were laughing so hard during my reading — I pounded the podium like it was a headboard — that early on I had to pull it together to perform rather than being swept away. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on stage — or sitting right in front of it.”

“Cheap Beer and Prose is a fantastic time. It has all the necessary elements of a great reading event: excellent readers, a good host, and an entertaining/funny introduction by founder/curator Brian. What makes Cheap Beer and Prose especially impressive is the intimate, fun atmosphere it provides: everyone crowds into the Victorian cabaret with their cheap beers to listen to the readers.”

“This series and its predecessor, Cheap Wine & Poetry, have revolutionized readings in Seattle. The readings are thoughtfully curated, the readers represent a range of style, content, and where they are at in their career as a writer, the audience is engaged to the point of raucous, but both readers and attendees are serious about writing. An emphasis is put on performance in a way Seattle needs – our city of quiet book nerds need to be encouraged to verbally express their pleasure and wonderment at a reading, and if it takes a can of PBR and a funny MC to do it, we are all the better for it. Cheap Beer & Prose feels like going to church when I was a kid (it was Pentecostal) and I love the strong connection I feel with the reading and writing community there.”

“There is absolutely no other reading in the world like “Cheap Beer & Prose.” The series, which was founded three years ago and is a spin-off of the super popular “Cheap Wine & Poetry” series,” features four prose writers reading for roughly 15 minutes a piece and cheap beer for a buck per can. The series is sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon who provides beer, allowing us to keep the series entirely free. We regularly draw 150+ people who spill out of a space that comfortably seats 80 to hear talented, local writers, many of whom don’t have books published. The series has been featured often in The Stranger, Seattle’s alt-weekly, most recently last month where they wrote “With bargain-basement beer prices and all the readers vetted for maximum entertainment value, Cheap Beer & Prose is always a safe bet for a good time.” You can read the full preview here: http://www.thestranger.com/suggests/16199666/cheap-beer-and-prose. “Cheap Beer & Prose” is a highlight of Seattle’s literary scene and is recognized as one of the best events in the city.”