Five free reading series, and why you should check them out
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Where: University Club, 420 Summit Ave., St. Paul. (Non-members are welcome to dinner on reading nights.)
When: The third Tuesday of every month (except for July and August) at 7:30 p.m.
Now in its 15th year, Readings by Writers (also known as the Third Tuesday series) regularly attracts 60 to 100 lit-lovers at each event. The last reading, which featured Robert Bly, filled the house with 180 faithful fans. Hosted by Carol Connolly, St. Paul's poet laureate, these readings mainly focus on poetry, but also include offerings of fiction and creative nonfiction. You couldn't ask for a more elegant location in which to enjoy a literary evening. The lovely University Club has a bar on-site, and there's live music a half hour before the reading starts. Special themes each season include "love" in February, Irish lit in March, and Bloomsday (a nationwide celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce) in June. The collection plate passed at each reading supports Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk of Public Art Saint Paul. Parking can be found on side streets nearby and down Summit Avenue.
Where: Maeve's Café, 300 13th Ave., Minneapolis
When: First Thursday, every other month, at 7:30 p.m.
At Maeve's Sessions, hosts Matt Mauch and Paula Cisewski present emerging and established poets on the first Thursday every other month. The series started when cafe owner Mary Cassidy asked Mauch if he would be willing to run it. The format is lively and well-paced, with featured readers interspersed with open-mic readers, who get to read one poem each. Before each event, there are vittles available for purchase, and at the end of the evening raffle prizes are given away. On-street parking is plentiful, with lots of fun bars and restaurants in the neighborhood to keep the party going afterward. The next reading is on June 5. You can keep track of events on Facebook.
Where: Upstairs from the Blue Moon Café, 3820 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
When: Each month on the second Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Started by David Shove in 2012, Midstream Reading Series features four readers each month, two men and two women. For this funky series, past readers recommend possible future readers. At each event, folks order up a beverage in the cafe, then climb a secret staircase that leads to what looks like a storage room. Once inside, there are chairs and couches to relax on, and a small stage and podium. The intimate feel of these readings are enhanced as the emcee goes around the room and has everyone introduce themselves. Shove emphasizes community, rather than silent enjoyment, at each event. Merlin's Rest serves as the site for each evening's afterparty, and all are invited.
Cracked Walnut, hosted by Satish Jayaraj
Where: Various locations
When: Events happen throughout the year.
"Cracked Walnut creates community in average spaces through the magic of spoken literature," says host Satish Jayaraj. The series, which started in 2011, is a traveling event, with readings at traditional and nontraditional spots throughout the Twin Cities. Host venues are often unusual, and have included a funeral parlor, a grocery store, and a hospital, as well as the proverbial coffee shop. The group just wrapped up its Cracked Walnut Literary Festival, featuring 24 readings over 35 days, with each event offering amazing writers reading pieces touching on a specific theme for the evening. Up next is a reading at 7 p.m. June 21 at Form + Content Gallery, where writers will respond to new works on display for "Liminal." Check the website, www.crackedwalnut.com, for updates, as the variety of topics covered means you are sure to find something of interest.
Birchbark Books Reading Series, hosted by Michael Kiesow Moore
Where: The Bockley Gallery, 2123 W. 21st St., Minneapolis
When: Typically, these events happen at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, though this varies.
Sponsored by Birchbark Books, this series focuses on poetry (although, not exclusively). Now in its fifth year, the event is the dream-child of curator Michael Kiesow Moore. Readings have had to move around a bit, eventually landing a couple doors down from the bookstore at the Bockley Gallery (housed in the old Kenwood Café space), where attendees can experience spoken word while surrounded by wonderful visual art. The series began as monthly happening, but has cut back to four or five sessions a year, with summers off. For more information, and a list of past readers, check out the series' webpage.