New Literature: The Anthology Reading Series

Iowa City bleeds literature. This town is packed with poets, novelists, and essayists out of its ears. Walk downtown, bump into three people and at least one of them is a writer. Go into the Foxhead and all of them are writers. And it’s not just the writers living here: several authors come into Iowa City each week to read their work. Prairie Lights is the primary venue for readers and the Writers’ House is beginning to step onto the scene. Then there’s good ole stuffy Talk Art every week at the Mill, an event that features current MFA students in the Writers’ Workshop. Amidst this rich literary tradition, a new reading series will make it’s debut. The wholly promising Anthology Reading Series kicks off tonight at Public Space One. Seeming to cut loose of the pretension that sometimes surrounds these events, this new reading series is about two things: good writing and a positive interactive community.

One of the event’s founders, Cutter Wood, describes it as a “semi-regular word-person pow-wow.” He goes on to pinpoint his audience: “If you like to write or if you like to read, we’re looking for you.” Wood is a second-year student in the University’s Nonfiction Writing Program and also serves as a writing fellow
in the (ironically artless) art museum. His co-creator is Geoff Hilsabeck, a second-year poet in the Writers’ Workshop.

Wood lays out the idea behind the reading: “I’d say what got us going was just this: we knew a lot of great writing was happening in this town, but we didn’t know what it was; we knew a lot of great readings were happening, but we knew people simply didn’t have time to go to a reading every night of the week. It seemed like there wasn’t any reading where you could go to hear a bit of poetry smack up against some gonzo journalism and fiction, or some playwriting in bed with a little translation of an ancient Chinese novel. Not to mention, interaction with Iowa City writers outside the graduate programs seemed to be lacking. So we thought we’d make a little try at bringing together this city’s literary talent; we wanted to drop the boundaries for a night and see what we got.”

Tonight’s reading will feature a wide array of writers — 9 total! — working in different genres. Among them is Tim Denevi, a writer of both fiction and nonfiction who is currently an MFA student in the Nonfiction Writing Program. He reckons that “showcasing cross-genre talent across the board is crucial.” He continues, “Plus it’s a new format: the venue is different and people are only reading for 3 -5 minutes. Talk Art is sometimes like 40 minutes by one person. That’s very long. The form of 3 - 5 minutes really makes writers choose what they’ll do.”

By limiting the length of readings, Anthology’s creators really hope to give more authors exposure and to, perhaps, take a bit of the “seriousness” out of the atmosphere. Good writing, but fun writing. The reading starts at 8PM tonight in Public Space One and Wood and Hilsabeck hope it’ll be the catalyst for getting more writers involved in the future. So far, they already have a backlist of potential readers from various genres for future outings in the series. We here at Mission Freak highly recommend all lovers of books to head on down tonight to give these new voices a chance, to perhaps sign up to read your own stuff in the future, and, of course, to have a good time.

Public Space One is located in the basement of the Jefferson Building. The Jefferson Building is in downtown Iowa City on Washington Street, nestled between Subway and the Ped Mall. Be there at 8PM.

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