Mind Gravy Poetry is the brain child of Columbia newcomer, Al Black, who took things into his own hands when he moved to the city and didn't find a poetry reading series that met his personal needs. (There are several other poetry reading series in town including a Tuesday night session that leans toward slam at the Art Bar and, when university classes are in session, a series that originated out of the MFA program at USC, called The Shark's Parlor.) Al's lovely wife returned to college when their four children got older, completing her Ph.D. from Purdue University at the age of 55, and moving to Newberry College in August 2008 to teach. In Indianapolis, the Blacks' hometown, Al had been very active in the music and poetry scene and he regularly contributed satire to a liberal blog.
Missing his old Indianapolis fun and a venue for sharing written word poetry, Al started Mind Gravy at the now defunct Gotham Bagels a little over a year ago. The site of the readings has changed as businesses closed and the group of regulars grew, and in February the regular reading moved to Artsy Fartsy Art Gallery and Coffee Bar in Cayce.
"We are bursting at the seams," Al says. "Most nights we have 10 or more people standing and we total 40-50 people."
Tonight, Jasper Magazine literary editor, Ed Madden, along with Ray McManus will be the featured poets. Rev. Marv Ward is the musical guest.
A few more things Al would like friends of Jasper to keep in mind:
*We are a free venue & no participants are paid
*We go every Wednesday from 8-10 PM
*We start with a guest musician (original music), followed by the featured poet and then open mic
*We have had featured poets from VA, NC, TN, GA, FL & SC
*70% of the featured poets are page poets, but we have featured performance, slam, dub and hip hop poets in the past
*Our music runs from SC folk/country to R&B, hip hop and everything in between
*Open mic is limited to 2 pieces per person – all types of poetry, all types of music, an occasional dance, once a magician and once a comedian – we try to be positive and encouraging of all levels artistic expression
*We expect to begin webcasting in October – this will widen our market and our reach for featured poets
*Al doesn't feature himself, but sometimes he'll read a piece or two during open mic
*Occasionally, we will have an artist paint during the event
*An interesting note -- about two months ago, the house-mother for a group home for developmentally handicapped women started bringing 6 of the women to Mind Gravy. They come each week, enjoy themselves, leave at 9:30 and are respected & appreciated by our regulars – it is the most unusual thing I have ever seen. (Jasper's heart swelled a little when he read this.)
*The first Wednesday of each month is youth night – adults come, but it is youth performers
*The 2nd & 4th Wednesdays are normal Mind Gravy
*The 3rd Wednesdays Al hosts the Columbia Writer’s Alliance -- same format, but Al is trying to encourage this organization started by African-American women - so we call it Mind Gravy presents Columbia Writer’s Alliance
*Whenever we have a 5th Wednesday, we do it on some special theme – this month has a 5th Wednesday and the theme is percussion; we have some different percussionists coming in and, of course, poetry
*Mind Gravy operates on the premise that cross-pollination of different art forms at the event increases the audience size and diversity, engenders appreciation of differences between art forms; creates an environment that encourages collaboration and, is just a delightfully wonderful time.
Well, those dear readers who are familiar with the mission of Jasper Magazine, know that Al just said the magic words. Collaboration, coming out of our single-disciplinary arts caves, and contributing to and taking inspiration from other artistic genres and communities is a sure-fire way of building and enriching a sustaining community of artists and arts lovers.
Congratulations to Al Black and the participants of Mind Gravy for being pro-active and pro-arts. Be sure to check them out tonight or any Wednesday when you need some words to soothe your soul.
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