Interview with Aimée Sands, Co-Director

How did this reading series come about? 

We’re housed at the Brookline Public Library, but we started out somewhere else. I should say right here how incredibly grateful we are that the library approached us all those years ago when our first venue evaporated, and we had nowhere to go.

Most of us who run the Series met in a class at the William Joiner Center Summer Writers’ Workshop in 2001. We stayed together after the class was over and formed a poetry group. A member of the group, Dianne Ouellete, started the Series. I thought it was a terrible idea at the time! But when she asked for help, I decided maybe I could learn to read poetry better if I worked with her.

Two months later, Dianne died suddenly of a recurrence of ovarian cancer. She was only 43. We were determined to keep the Series going as her legacy. Susanna Roberts, another member of the group, stepped forward to help. Sue and I ran it for a few years, and then Ann Killough joined us. Dianne’s husband Berred did the sound until he was ready to move on. Ann’s husband Joe Killough does all the sound now.

Tam Lin Neville worked with us for a while, but now the coordinating group is Susan Jo Russell, Ann Killough, and me.

If I would tell the story the short way, I’d say the series grew out of the spirit of warm community and the commitment to good poetry that was the hallmark of the Joiner Summer Writers’ Workshop. We meet the third Sunday of every month, September through May, at 2:00 pm.

Are you affiliated with any organization such as a journal, a press, a school, or a bookstore?

The angelic Friends of the Brookline Public Library sponsor us at the library. Other than that, Belmont Books occasionally sells books at our readings, which we really appreciate.

What makes your reading series different from others?

Well, for one thing, it’s gotten pretty big. Around 40 people attend most of our readings now. But more importantly, we are different because of our open mike, which attracts some of the best lyric poets writing in the Boston area. Our featured readers regularly tell us our open mike is the best they’ve ever heard in the country. We think the open mike has developed in this way because, like the Joiner, we are committed both to warm community and excellence in poetry. What’s remarkable to me is that we’ve been able to maintain that combination for almost 20 years.

Who comes to your series?

A lot of good poets who are serious about their craft, love hearing good work, and who need a community that both challenges and applauds them. The community has developed to the point where we all look forward to hearing each other’s latest poems each month. New poets show up regularly, and there’s such anticipation in the room when they step up to the mike.

What upcoming featured poets are you really excited about?

Our whole 2020-2021 lineup is pretty exciting:

  • September 20: Martha Collins and Lynn Powell

  • October 18: Vievee Francis with opener Chloe Garcia Roberts

  • November 15: Gabrielle Calvocoressi with opener Tanya Liu

  • December 20: Allison Adair and Josh Coben

  • January 17: Frannie Lindsay and Christine Tierney

  • February 21: Roger Reeves and Jeffrey Harrison

  • March 21: Cynthia Cruz, opener TBA

  • April 18: Steven Cramer and Nathan McClain

  • May 16: Chen Chen and Tiana Nobile

Can you describe your venue? Is it wheelchair accessible? 

It is wheelchair accessible, I’m happy to say. And the space is palatial. It’s a real reading room, with art on the walls, beautiful lighting, great acoustics, and plenty of room to schmooze after a reading. We’re lucky to have it.

What can your guests expect when they arrive? Things like a cover charge, lines, or other helpful tips.

We request a $5.00 donation at the door. But we emphasize request. All the money goes to the poets. There’s never much of a line. The open mike list opens at 1:45 pm, so sometimes there’s a rush around then.

How does it work now that you are online?

Email us at [email protected] to sign up for the mailing list, and we will send Zoom information closer to the date of the reading.

Are you aiming for a particular aesthetic or vibe with your featured poets?

Good contemporary poetry. We draw from the rich array of incredible poets living right here in the Boston area, and as our reputation has grown, we’re attracting significant poets from all over the country. We’ve also been lucky that some members of our community attend the Warren Wilson MFA program, so we’ve been able to feature Warren Wilson faculty members for several years running.

Does your series include an open mic? If so, is there anything poets should know before signing up for it?

You can read one short poem (a page or less.) That way, the audience can hang in there for every last poet at the open mike, which is sometimes 25 people long!

If someone would like to be considered as a featured poet for your series, how should they go about inquiring?

Write us at our Library website: https://www.brooklinelibrary.org/events/brookline-poetry-series/

Do you have a mailing list or other way people can learn about your future readings? How can people sign up?

We do have an email list. Write us at [email protected] and ask to have your name and email added. When we’re back to meeting in person, you can check our website to see what’s coming up.

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.