Until this past Saturday, I was not aware of how far the local poetry scene had come over the last couple of years. It was while meeting with Allentown Litter Mob’s Max Stephan that he told me about a live monthly poetry reading series called Second Stage Writers that he was co-producing. As we discusses the local poetry scene for a spell, including Poets Storm Nietzsche’s and Pure Ink Poetry, it occurred to me that there was a lot going on these days. I asked Max if he knew why the local poetry scene was so strong, and he attributed to a couple of things.
First, he said that poets are no longer waiting around for others to make it happen. They are going out and starting up their own gigs at myriad venues, including cafés and clubs. Second, he pointed to the advancements in social media, which allows the poets to directly market to their circle of friends and supporters, for free. The ability to network is key. He also mentioned that there are a lot of young poets out there, looking to be heard.
It was one year ago that Max, who is an English professor at Niagara University (specializing in poetry), got together with a retired UB professor by the name of Scott Williams, to create their own poetry reading series at Grindhäus Café in Allentown. The idea was to attract young and old poets to take ‘the stage’. Little did he know that the reading series would be so popular, especially with the burgeoning young poets who now proliferate the scene. “We feature three readers per event,” Max told me. “One of those readers must be at least 40 years of age, which makes the series inclusionary. Then there are two ‘open slots’. Since we started the monthly series we have never had less than 25 people in attendance. It’s never sputtered out, which I find very surprising… it hit the ground running. The reading series has become a great way to make connections with other readers. We host the event the second Friday of the month, for anyone that wants to join us.”
Max mentioned that it was only a few years ago when he would submit his poems “here and there” around town, and was never able to get much traction. These days the poetry scene is strong, which makes him very happy. “We’re mapping out our events three or four months in advance now,” he mentioned. “It’s good for the poets, and it’s good business for Grindhäus Café, which allowed us to host the series.”
Second Stage Readings @ Grindhäus Café
Second Friday of the month
7 PM – 8 PM
Upcoming show (Friday, April 13): Features Skyler Jaye Rutkowski, Celeste Lawson, and David Delaney (from Rochester)
Grindhäus Café | 160 Allen Street | Buffalo, New York 14201