Part One:

So You Want to Start Your Own Poetry Collective?

ONE OF THE perks of being in a low-residency MFA program for an aspiring poet is that she belongs to a community of writers. The low-residency program at Sierra Nevada College is undoubtedly a sanctuary for me, an aspiring poet in said MFA program, and provides not only useful tools for my studies but also allows me to enter an intense program surrounded with like- minded individuals. But when the residency ends, when the silent shores of Lake Tahoe are but specks of cloud dew on the plane, I am back in New Jersey and am searching for a continuation of a poetry scene.

It’s great to be able to curl up in the corner of my tiny apartment five blocks from the boardwalk of Asbury Park, listening to the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Lake while studying. There is a sense of personal gain, as my corner is now plastered with poems I need to edit or thoughts I need to put to poems. But a girl can only have a conversation with a wall for so long before she wishes for her words to bounce around the streets of her city.

Asbury Park is the Detroit of the Jersey Shore. Once a bustling resort town, it now exists in the shadow of its former self, with Bruce Springsteen echoing through the vastness of Convention Hall. Topping the state’s list of most dangerous cities in the Garden State, it is now just beginning to see a revival. There is a bustling downtown that was not present ten years ago, a new hotel opening in the heart of the boardwalk area, and droves of hipsters gentrifying and spreading their influence faster than plague rats. Famous for its music history, there is also a lot of art and great food to be found throughout the revived areas. This is the all necessary to make any great scene, so the lack of a writer’s group or poetry collective has been a serious concern of mine. I just needed to meet the right people.

Before the beginning of my last residency, I was invited to a local poetry reading by friend and mentor Laura McCullough. She was reading from her forthcoming collection, Jersey Mercy. I happened to be free that night (from the chains of corporate retail slavery that night) and wanted to check it out. The reading was at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport, about twenty or so miles north from my little corner. I had the foresight that if I went I would be able to speak with those like-minded individuals, who also felt like there was a serious lack of a scene at the Jersey Shore.

Cue Damian Rucci. A native to the Bayshore (which includes aforementioned Keyport), this no-holds-barred poet is kicking ass and making poetry his life. Poetry in the Port, his bi-weekly series on Thursdays at Espresso Joe’s, features poets and an open mic for all types poets, whether seasoned or recreational. In his ruffian stature and words, I found a warm embrace to join his fold since he greeted me with a similar desire to reinvent the Jersey poetry scene. Damian, as the backbone to the collective I am part of, will be featured in this blog series as it progresses.

When I am not busy listening to the talents of my clan twice a month on Thursdays at Poetry in the Port, I am at Dino’s on Main in Asbury Park for Cord Moreski’s hosting of Words on Main. Cord is another local poet and collective leader, a kind and intelligent lover of all things words. Every other Friday, Cord gathers with fellow writers at an Italian eatery on Main Street in the city. He follows the same format as Damian, a set of featured poets and a free-for-all open mic. Cord will also share with us some words of wisdom in the coming weeks.

Chelsea Palermo, another New Jersey native and poetess, is the ringleader for the Ministry of Artistic Intent. A talented writer with a beautiful reading voice, Chelsea hosts this monthly workshop in the confines of the Waterwitch Coffee shop. The workshop invites local poets and writers to host a workshop within the group. After the workshop, attendees are invited to share some words with an open mic. We will hear about her tips in creating a poetry scene later in the blog.

The first video blog will be an interview with active playwright and poet, Allyson Dwyer. Allyson is a currently an MFA candidate at Augsburg low-residency program in Minneapolis, Minnesota for playwriting. She will also provide some insight on what it is like to be a writer in a burgeoning poetry/writing scene.

With this blog, I hope to to show you how to create your own local poetry scene within your community.  There is much more than a sense of inflated ego that comes with presenting your art to the world! Hopefully one day you can make a collective that has the power to melt people’s faces off.

Or at least singe their emotional receptors!


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