Reading series interview: Everyone Has a Voice at the Brockton Public Library
a conversation between Frances Donovan and Paul Engle, Director of the Brockton Public Library
Does your series happen on a regular schedule, such as the second Tuesday of the month? If so, what is it?
We were pretty regular with our program, the third Saturday of the month from 1:00 – 3:00. We have two other events:
Soar Without Limits, Heal Through the Arts, A poetry/art exhibit that connects artists with disabilities with poets that runs for the month of June with a reception in the first week where artists and poets meet for the first time
Voices of Diversity-Voices of America, Ten Poets presenting in the language of their heritage then translating into English. The first Saturday evening in November.
We take the summer months off (July and August). Since the pandemic we have been having a Virtual Everyone Has a Voice (EHAV), and that’s been released whenever our friends at Brockton Community Access finish knitting them together.
How did this reading series come about?
My involvement started my first year as Director, which was 2017. Philip Hasouris, a local poet, approached me about bringing EHAV back into the Brockton Public Library. Of course I was receptive. My background is in music, and I’ve worked with my share of poets. Philip and I hit it off immediately and we’ve been bringing poetry to the Brockton Public Library ever since. I know Philip ran the program before I arrived.
Did you develop it on your own, or do you collaborate with others?
The concept was completely Philip’s. All I did was provide the space and time.
What makes your reading series different from others?
I’m not too sure, I do know that EHAV focuses on drawing out the audience to present their poetry. Philip even managed to get my wife to read poems in her native language, Russian. We have an open mic, a student feature for 10-20 minutes, and an established poet for 20-30 minutes.
Who comes to your series?
The local community from in and around Brockton, Rhode Island, and Boston.
Do you have features or is it solely an open mic?
There are always two features, an established and typically, a student either from Brockton High or the local colleges. Our youngest student poet was thirteen.
What upcoming featured poets are you really excited about?
With the virtual presentation, everyone is a feature, so it has been a blast to watch all the great poets. The students always blow me away. With our regular readings we a diverse pool of poets, from performance poets and spoken word to professors and the written word. We always look for a first-time feature. The excitement and validation of being a first-time featured poet is exhilarating. I find the audience wraps their arms around the poet a little more tightly.
Are you aiming for a particular aesthetic or vibe with your featured poets?
Not really, or at least I’m not. The vibe I feel most is akin to going to church or listening to Howlin’ Wolf.
If someone would like to be considered as a featured poet for your series, how should they go about inquiring?
Reach out to Philip at mailto:[email protected]. I know he’s very connected and very open to new poets. What I really enjoy is when a student feature comes back a few months later as the pro feature. Typically it’s their first headlining gig.
How does the reading series work now that it is online?
Everyone records their videos on a phone at arm’s length (holding it left to right, NOT up and down) or on their computer or tablet.
You may submit as many poems as you want. Each poem must be sent separately.
Forward them to [email protected]
Please submit your name. If you wish to add more information it should be no more than one sentence.
A compilation video will be broadcast and uploaded to the Brockton Youtube channel. You can view the May 2020 episode here. Once you are on the mailing list (see below), you will get the link to each month’s reading on YouTube.
Permission to Publish: The author(s) grant to the Brockton Public Library and Brockton Community Access their non-exclusive permission to distribute copies of the work in the program “Everyone Has a Voice” a program offered free to the public via Brockton Community Access, and The Brockton Channels You Tube
Does your series include an open mic? If so, is there anything poets should know before signing up for it?
When we’re in the library yes! The open mic piece is ultra important to me and Philip. Sometimes you witness someone’s very first attempt at overcoming their own obstacles and putting themselves and their art out there. Again, it’s like church.
Do you have a mailing list or other way people can learn about your future readings? How can people sign up?
There is an email list that a friend and fellow poet maintains. Come to an event and connect with Philip or, until we can get together, reach out to him at [email protected].
These questions relate to your physical venue, but should be useful for folks to know when social distancing comes to an end:
Can you describe your venue? Is it wheelchair accessible?
The room is on the top floor of the Thomas P Kennedy Main Branch of the Brockton Public Library, in the Carnegie section of the building. It also doubles as an art gallery, it has wonderful acoustics, a fantastic vibe, and yes, it is wheelchair accessible.
What can your guests expect when they arrive? Things like a cover charge, lines, or other helpful tips.
Expect a great experience. Expect a warm and welcoming space with warm and welcoming people. Expect to be asked to read your poems. Expect to laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. Expect to be moved. You will make great friends, and no, there is and never will be a cover charge, as one of the five tenets of the American Public Library is to offer its services to everyone for free.
Frances Donovan’s chapbook Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore (Reaching Press, 2018) was named a finalist in the 31st Lambda Literary Awards. Publication credits include The Rumpus, Snapdragon, and SWWIM. She holds an MFA in poetry from Lesley University, is a certified Poet Educator with Mass Poetry, and has appeared as a featured reader at numerous venues. She once drove a bulldozer in an LGBTQ+ Pride parade while wearing a bustier. You can find her climbing hills in Boston and online at www.gardenofwords.com. Twitter: @okelle.