For more than a year, Mike Wright and Stephen Morrow, two Ohio University graduates with a background in creative writing, have been organizing and running literary and poetry readings in unconventional settings. Holding the events at haunts like The Tree Bar in Grandview and House Beer in the Short North, the duo set out to make readings more accessible and fun.

For more than a year, Mike Wright and Stephen Morrow, two Ohio University graduates with a background in creative writing, have been organizing and running literary and poetry readings in unconventional settings. Holding the events at haunts like The Tree Bar in Grandview and House Beer in the Short North, the duo set out to make readings more accessible and fun.

“The nice thing about these events is it’s a less academic or sterile environment,” Wright said. “Literary readings tend to be sit-still, be-quiet events in smaller rooms. It’s nice to have a public space to read in where people can mill around, have beverages and there’s a lot of socializing before the reading and during intermissions. People have a lot of opportunity to speak with the readers and it just feels a little less formal.”

The readings start with an opening social period where everyone is having a drink and hanging out. Then the first reader presents for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by an intermission with more socializing and the next presenter.

While (with poetry) uses an alternative setting to made attendees feel more welcome and comfortable, the readers themselves are also working, thinking and presenting with an avant-garde approach.

A prime example of this is the featured presenter at Saturday’s reading, John M. Bennett. Bennett is a prolific writer and publisher — more than 300 books and chapbooks of poetry and other materials — the curator of Avant Writing Collection at The Ohio State University Libraries, and one of the most respected minds in the field of experimental writing. Despite living in north Clintonville, Bennett rarely reads in Columbus, making Saturday’s outing a rare opportunity to see, hear and feel the seminal writer’s sweeping style.

“My work is pretty well-known around the world, but I don’t read that often in Columbus because there isn’t the opportunity or audience,” Bennett said. “I’m interested in non-English language [and] my sense of language and its applications are broad. It’s founded on an idea that all poetry is visual in a way and sonic or oral and that it is performative. And that all poetry is plastic. It has a physical existence. All poetry exists in time and is static on a page. I work in all those directions.”

Photo credit: Brian Kellett