Thanks to Mike Notaro and the Bishop Bar, we have provided the recordings of the readings and Super Regal’s set above. The order from top to bottom: Super Regal, Stacey Lynn Brown, Kiese Laymon, and Kathleen Rooney.
Last Saturday, March 29th, Indiana Review hosted the fourth annual Blue Light Reading Series at the Bishop Bar, and we’re still nursing our literary hangovers—this year’s readers delivered some of their most inebriating prose (gotta love extended metaphors), and we feel compelled to gush about the night.
On Friday afternoon we pre-gamed with dynamo author Kathleen Rooney at her “Poems While You Wait” workshop. After weeks of scavenging for as many functional typewriters as possible, we finally acquired enough to set an early twentieth century vibe for the presentation, typewriters poised atop desks with some o’ that fresh new ink. Still, those of us familiar with the concrete box that is Ballantine were not as quick to romanticize the setting as Kathleen was. (But thanks, Kathleen, for the refreshing new perspective!)
Kathleen Rooney likes old things, hence the typewriters. Her workshop focused on appreciating the artful technology of the typewriter as a vessel for on-the-spot poetry, as it is used in her collaborative project “Poems While You Wait,” where poets station themselves in public spaces, typewriters in tow, and offer to write for passersby, who are then encouraged to choose the subject of a personalized poem. After her presentation and a trial run with the typewriters, Kathleen encouraged attendees of the workshop to summon their courage and participate in “Poems While You Wait,” Bloomington edition. Slightly nerve-racked, we accepted the challenge. The yield? A brilliant collection of inky, raw poems by volunteer writers (some shown below), and a renewed appreciation for typewriters as something much more than a hipster fad.
By Saturday night we were buzzin’ for some Blue Light reading by our three incredible readers: Kathleen Rooney, Kiese Laymon, and Alissa Nutting. And then U.S. Airways happened (*shakes fist at faceless airline exec.)—Alissa Nutting, edgy, intelligent author of novel Tampa, couldn’t make it as a reader this year due to inclement weather. Sigh. But she is planning on making an appearance in Bloomington this fall, so keep an eye out.
The IR is so grateful to local poet, playwright, and essayist Stacey Lynn Brown for stepping in for Alissa at the last minute. #DaySaved #GoStacey And boy did she set the bar—reading from her book-length poem Cradle Song, she lassoed the audience into a reflection on racism and growing up in the South, sticky familial relationships, and losing loved ones. Needless to say, we were hooked. Oh, and girl knows how to weave humor into a reading, let me tell you.
Following Stacey’s reading, Kathleen Rooney took the stage in front of a full house and read from her novel, O, Democracy, as well as her collaborative chapbook, The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere To Go, and her poem collection, Robinson Alone. Versatile may be an understated-adjective for Kathleen’s writing: she read from the perspectives of the Founding Fathers and of a mysterious male poet from the 1950s in the same twenty minutes, and then finished with an excerpt on romance. Phew. And somehow she pulled it off without any perspective whiplash. All-star author Kathleen Rooney, who knew it, is a killer performer of words, not to mention inescapably relatable.
The third and final Blue Light reader of 2014, Kiese Laymon, grounded the audience’s attention in an essayistic poem from his collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I was dumbfounded by the honest potency of his words. I think I speak for most of the aspiring writers in the audience when I say he offered something like a “Cold Drank” of comfort in his description of the hardships of getting published. Hell yes, Kiese.
After a brief Q&A with authors, local band Super Regal wrapped up the event with some of their rad new tunes.
Thanks to all of y’all who made this year’s Blue Light Series a helluva reading, especially our readers Kiese Laymon, Kathleen Rooney, and Stacey Lynn Brown.
If you missed the reading, you can listen to the readings by following the links below!