Deep into the seriousness of preparing my manuscript for HarperCollins, I had the great experience of Brent Thompson’s Write Nite in the upper room of Knoxville’s Preservation Pub. It was fun, with edge and beer, very Cheers-like, a little rap, a little slam, hip hop and haiku. Writing as friendly, no-stakes, collaborative sport. A little Blue Moon sweetened the slightly smoky air filtering up from the pub. Huge posters of a motley crew of famous folks (Picasso, Darwin, Marie Curie) framed the stage. The fetching “Outword” graphic (see illustration) glowed behind each writer.
First came an open mic, with entries raunchy, yearning, tender and raw, some memoir, cocaine memories and a stand-up comedy piece billed as first public performance, but was beautifully timed and hilariously funny. A brave volunteer undertook a “spontaneous poem,” going for the guaranteed prize of a free drink.
Up on stage, I did an interview with writer-graphic artist, warmly affirming high-energy host Black Atticus (aka Joseph Woods) and read a bit of my novel. Meanwhile “The Thread” was going around, a notebook on which a group poem is created. The first two lines involved a Barbie doll competition. The poem ended elsewhere, far away but amazingly united.
As Black Atticus explained, the squares of paper and pens at each booth were for the Haiku Hustle. Theme that night: math. Prizes: 1) book of matches; 2) pair of used socks; old CD, scratched, suitable for a coaster. We wrote our haikus, stood in lines at the mic, delivered, and a young poet chosen at random was the august judge. I used some squares for my haiku and on a couple other pieces worked out a solution for a novel scene that had been eluding me all afternoon.
It was a great evening. If you don’t live in Knoxville, there may be similar groups in your cities, but from here, where writing gets serious and solitary, I can say that Brent Thompson’s Write Nite is a great antidote, a reminder of how fun and spontaneous the process can be, and how deep and wide the talent pool in a small city can be.