Changes: Bowery, Litkicks and Elsewhere

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Changes. Funny thing ... I was planning on writing a blog post today about some changes I'm planning on making here on Litkicks. The site turns 18 years old (!) this Monday, July 23, and I'm planning to shake a few things up. I was going to write about that today, and then I heard some news about the Bowery Poetry Club.

The Bowery Poetry Club has always been my favorite night spot in New York City. It opened in the spring of 2002 -- a great time for a new spoken word poetry club to open in a New York City still recovering from the shock of the previous September. The club is the handiwork of poetry raconteur Bob Holman, a guy we like a lot and think should be Poet Laureate of the United States.

For the past eleven years the BPC has been a cozy and friendly spot for amateur and professional poets and slammers and lyricists. Everybody who worked there was a poet, and you'd find Moonshine and Shappy (two good spoken word guys) mopping the floor or tending the bar. There's a Walt Whitman Lite Brite behind the stage, tasty organic coffee and tarts out near the front ... and halfway decent poetry acts at least half the time. Whenever a friend was coming in from out of town, I'd tell them to hit the Bowery Poetry Club.

Unfortunately, it's closing down. A restaurant will probably replace the club, though there is some word that the restaurant will continue to host poetry events. Bob Holman sent out an encouraging message earlier today:

The rumors of the death of the Bowery Poetry Club are greatly exaggerated!! It is true that ten years into Project Utopia, the hamster-tail chase of booking 30-35 gigs a week to allow the Poetry we know and love to live has produced a fatigued staff, a ragged Board (of Bowery Arts + Science, the nonprofit that books the Club), and a space that's crying out for a dose TLC. But toss in the Po' Towel? No Way, Joe! By spending the summer renovating and working out a partnership with a restaurant (rumors of Duane Park as our collaborators are sweet and the two entities surely do share a love for the populist arts of the Bowery, but nothing is signed yet folks), we hope to reopen come fall and be SUSTAINABLE with a neighborhood (Loisaida/Earth) focused poetry schedule, utilizing other neighborhood resources as well as the Club. Look for a fuller deployment of the POEMobile around town, state, country, solar system, and a commitment to a global poetics rooted in the Endangered Language Movement. To the communit-y/-ies who have supported us, and to our staff, deepest thanks! Stay tuned -- we love you. Come party with Sean T and Ann and all on Tues July 17. Everything is Subject to Change! -- and for our Tenth Anniversary next year, the BPC will look different. To survive and sustain. All the better to serve the world poetry.

In other words, Holman says we don't need to worry about poetry in New York City ... and from what I know of the strong slam poetry community in New York City, we definitely don't need to worry about it. It's good news that the Bowery Poetry Club organization will continue to be active, and I'm sure they'll keep it hopping on the Lower East Side.

I was at the Bowery Poetry Club the day it opened, and I have participated in and hosted many unforgettable events there. The last thing I went to was a beatnik birthday party for Herschel Silverman, a year ago. Luckily, there are still plenty of other places for beatniks to hang out in downtown New York, and there always will be.

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Changes. I've also got some changes in mind for this Literary Kicks joint, this little web/writing project of mine, nearly 18 years old (!). I figured it was time to stretch the format a little bit, and try some new things out. These future experiments will involve other formats like iOS, Kindle, ePub, Semantic Web, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, etc. (I've been doing some geeking out, and I bought a new Mac.)

As you know if you've been around here a while, I like to mix things up on the website every few years. That's how I keep it fresh. I'll tell you a little more about what I have in mind during the next couple of blog posts.

5 Responses to "Changes: Bowery, Litkicks and Elsewhere"

by Eamon on

I'm sure we'll love it, but I'm still trying to get through the archives. Great blog, Levi.

I have great memories of my visit to the Bowery Poetry Club and the people I met there. Hope to return one day.

And yes, Levi, believe it or not, I do remember it.

by tolmsted on

Ugh Levi, quit with the teasers already! The suspense is killing me!

I remember commuting in from New Jersey to attend my first event at the Bowery Poetry Club, a panel of women of the Beat Generation. My only prior experience with the neighborhood had been helping out at the Bowery Mission with my sister and brother, and now all alone and young and a girl I felt nervous as I got lost on the gritty city sidewalks—but I was determined to make it to the event. I tentatively opened the door and sat by myself at a table. Someone asked if he could write a poem for me, which simultaneously made me feel uncomfortable with the attention and at home in the beautiful eccentricity of it. I had been reading the Beats for years, and I was just in awe to be sitting in their presence. It was one of those defining moments of my life because more than just hearing these Beats share their stories, my attending the event signaled my growing into myself, claiming my identity, embracing my independence. It would’ve been easy to just stay at home in the safety of the suburbs when I knew no other poet to invite along, but I didn’t and that made all the difference. I went on to intern at the Bowery Poetry Club, meeting people who I am still friends with to this day and gaining skills that I didn’t previously possess. After that I gave my first New York City reading at the Club and organized some events there. Over time, the neighborhood changed—a Greek designer moved into CBGB’s, a Whole Foods opened up—but the Bowery Poetry Club remained true to its vision. It continually challenged me to grow and experience and create.

Meanwhile, I cannot believe that LitKicks is turning 18! This was the first online community that I was ever a part of—and that was long before my days at the Bowery Poetry Club—and the only one I keep returning to.

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