As 2013 beckoned for new beginnings and resolutions to be broken, Long Beach was getting a gift in the poetry world. Thanks to Markus Manley and Danielle Mitchell, Long Beach saw the introduction to a twice monthly Poetry Lab. Everyone is invited, no one turned away, and poetry the goody bag all leave with. Danielle Mitchell has conducted these labs that so far have consisted of thought provoking prompts, powerful workshops, introductions to amazing poets, kindred poetic souls, and even snacks. Through her generosity of time, we have seen members of Cadence Collective become published, for the first time, but more importantly we found a network of like minded people that we didn’t know before.
- Nate Pritts Courtesy http://media.mlive.com
On October 5, 2013, this venture takes a step forward with the inaugural all day poetry workshop/class with Nate Pritts. As Danielle describes him, he is a Renaissance man: teacher, editor, book author, and poet taking a Saturday to work with those writers that sign up for this opportunity. Nate Pritts is the author of five books of poetry. Publishers Weekly describes his book Sweet Nothing as “both baroque and irreverent, banal and romantic, his poems […] arrive at a place of vulnerability and sincerity.” It is not that often that one is given the chance to learn from a poet outside their immediate circle, one on one, so why haven’t we all signed up yet? And did I mention, that after the workshop Matt Hart and Chad Sweeney will join Nate for an 8pm reading that everyone is invited to? Not enough for you to sign up right now? Well there is also a dance party afterwards. That’s right: dancing poets.
What? Are you still hesitating? Let’s have Danielle help me out here. . .
Denise R. Weuve: How long has The Poetry Lab in Long Beach been running (2nd and 4th Thursday of the month) and what inspired you to start it?
Danielle Mitchell: The Poetry Lab began in February (2013). The project was inspired by my love for the poetry community. In the past, I’ve worked on various shows as artist coordinator and producer and spent great amounts of time at my favorite So Cal poetry venue, The Two Idiots Peddling Poetry, reading at the Ugly Mug, and have always loved the idea of bringing something to the community whether it be an open mic, produced show, or a workshop, as The Poetry Lab is.
But in the beginning, it was just me visiting the headquarters of a friend’s new creative venture, that was Markus Manley and the project was WE Labs. WE Labs had only been open for a few months and I’d been following the project through Facebook as they posted photos of the space being transformed, etc. I felt it was finally time to visit so I set up a lunch meeting with Markus. We toured WE Labs and then I introduced the idea for The Poetry Lab to him over sake bombs!
DRW: I love Ben Trigg and Steve Ramirez [of Two Idiots Peddling Poetry]. They are simply great guys who are so supportive of each other and writers regardless of where they are at on their personal writing journey.
Danielle Mitchell: Yes, exactly! And that’s something I’ve wanted to give back and to extend across county lines! I consider the Mug my home base. Still.
DRW: You are probably one of the most well read poets I know, and I think it is one of the wonderful elements you bring to poetry lab. The Lab is not steeped in the house of one poet alone, or even one poetry style.
Danielle Mitchell: Thanks!
I would add that the idea for The Poetry Lab as a bi-monthly meet up group was actually Markus Manley’s and not mine…
DRW: What was your original idea for the Poetry Lab? How does lab work? Do you pay for the space? I only ask because most workshops I know ask the participants pay, but you only ask for donations.
Danielle Mitchell: First, I brought him the idea for what is now The Stranded Artist Series, but Markus, the start-up genius that he is, decided that it would make more sense to build and support the community before bringing in outside artists. So The Poetry Lab was born. At first, I had huge reservations about the idea of “teaching” a poetry class…and so I’ve set out to make sure that’s not what the Lab is about. It is (I hope) in every sense a shared experience. It’s my personal mission to read and interface with a lot of poetry books, like you said, but I hope that everyone’s knowledge is used and appreciated in the Lab. And, really, I’m just trying to put my student loans to work!
The Poetry Lab has since become what I like to think of as the “pro bono” project of WE Labs. So, no we aren’t charged for the space and only ask for donations. The project developed in that way because we set out to meet the needs of our audience. And hoped that when the time came (the Stranded Artist Workshop) when our members would be asked to pay for the special privilege of working with a great, established poet, they would do so. Which they have! And I’m very happy for that. I think from the WE Labs side, everyone is happy to have the poets descend on the space twice a month. We are now WE Labs’ longest running event and we’ve gotten a lot of members from the WE Labs community joining us for workshops, which is another thing we had hoped for!
DRW: And now, thanks to you, the Lab is hosting this wonderful event with Nate Pritts? How do that come about?
Danielle Mitchell: Nate Pritts is a Renaissance man of the poetry world. He is editor-in-chief of H_NGM_N books and runs their literary journal also; he teaches workshops having achieved his MFA at Warren Wilson. But I met him last year at AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference. I went over to the H_NGM_N table to buy his new book, Right Now More Than Ever, and he happened to be hanging out there and we made a connection. He liked the look of The Poetry Lab card! And I asked if he’d ever be interested doing a workshop and reading in Long Beach. His answer was YES! He had a small So Cal tour already in the works and now we are all going to experience his awesomeness first hand!
This is the importance of networking in the poetry community at work! The poetry community is a small-big community in the United States. Everyone knows everyone, and you can step into it. You just have to care, to educate yourself, be interested, enthusiastic.
DRW: Speaking of enthusiasm, I want everyone to be enthusiastic about Nate Pritts appearance with Stranded Artist Series. What will the day consist of?
Danielle Mitchell: The day will be guided by Nate. He’ll come in with his lesson plan, which I’m sure will include poems he wants to share with the group, knowledge, and expertise he has in the field, general razzmatazz. There will be a critical workshop of participants’ poems, a lunch break with food will be provided by WE Labs, and probably a writing prompt or two throughout the day.
After the workshop Matt Hart and Chad Sweeney will join Nate for a public reading, which all workshop participants are encouraged to attend. Yeah, it’s a long day, but it’s going to be epically fun!
For those unable to make the workshop, all are invited to the reading.
DRW: Is the workshop portion of the day bring a piece you have already written or will it be workshopping something created there?
Danielle Mitchell: Bring something you have. The specific requirements will be emailed to participants before the weekend of the workshop, Nate will tell them exactly what they need to bring, how many copies, etc.
DRW: How many participants will the event hold?
Danielle Mitchell: There are 15 seats available. For a limited time we are running an Early Bird Special. If you sign up within the next week [by September 25th] it is only $55! Which is a great deal. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets: http://strandedartist.bpt.me
The coupon code has been posted on our Facebook page. All updates will be provided there, too. So the best way to keep up with all news regarding this event is to Like us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ThePoetryLab
DRW: Will the reading the take place at WE Labs as well?
Danielle Mitchell: Yes, WE Labs at 8pm, Saturday, October 5th. Our features will have books available for purchase. And directly following the reading there will be a DJ & dance party (because that is how we do things in Long Beach).
DRW: Let’s sum this up, what is the single most important reason to go to the special event with Nate Pritts?
Danielle Mitchell: Because he is a tremendously talented poet. Right Now More Than Ever is a book that I go back to again and again. He creates a mood of stunning and eccentric beauty in his poetry, one that I’d stand in line in the snow to be a part of, but can be amazingly accessed in Long Beach–I am still a little in awe of that and I created the event! If you’re not inspired by Nate Pritts, then I fear for the color of your blood:
God writes trees & reading is building a house
of trees God made. So I want you to stand
in this field with me. There is no shelter here.
-from Flamingo Poem Poem