Earlier this evening, in Bryant Park, the huge lawn was filled with people sitting on the park’s famous metal folding chairs. A laughing crowd packed the bar on the upper level. Cars whizzed by on the perimeters. I was sitting in the park’s “Reading Room,” which is not really a room at all, attending my first Bryant Park poetry reading. Despite the activity all around, the setting felt intimate. About 60 poetry lovers had gathered to hear four poets read for an hour and a half, and except for the gorgeous trees bending over us, we could have been in a cozy coffeehouse or the back room of a bookstore.
I hadn’t heard of any of the poets before, but they were chosen well. All were good readers. For the most part, their poems were accessible on first hearing, A couple of the poets, in honor of the Bryant Park setting, selected work that was about nature or New York. There were even a few poems that had been written about locations within a block of where we were sitting.
Some of the poems were somber, some playful, some funny. One of the funniest lines of the night was in Sandra Beasley’s poem “Vocation,” a poem inspired by all the strange jobs she’s had. She said, “I type ninety-one words per minute …. all of them HELP.'” You can hear her read the poem on a video that’s available online. The last line was, if anything, even funnier than the one i just mentioned, and it made me laugh out loud. I won’t give it away, though, as it’s sort of a punchline — so listen for yourself.
Poetry readings will continue every Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 8:30 in the Bryant Park “Reading Room” through August 24. On September 7 and 14, there will be readings in the afternoon from 12:30 to 1:45.
Non-poetry author talks, questions and answers, and book signings take place in the same location every Wednesday afternoon, from 12:30 to 1:45 through August 25. The line-up for 2010 includes such famous authors as Mona Simpson, Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm), and Gary Shteyngart, and a panel of funny writers.
If hearing all these authors inspires you to write yourself, on Thursday evenings at 6:30 to 8:00, from June 24 to August 12, there will be free writer workshops for flash fiction, poetry, memoirs, creative non-fiction, short stories, screenwriting, general fiction, and general creative writing. Pre-registration for the workshops is required. Sign up on the Bryant Park website.
On four Tuesday afternoons there will be book clubs. Sign up early, and you might get a free book. Four Wednesday evenings are non-fiction nights, where writers such as Jonathan Alter, the senior editor of Newsweek, will lead discussions on history, politics, philosophy, or economics.
There are also a lot of literary events for kids and teens on the weekends.
In case of rain, most of the events will be held in alternate locations indoors.
Treat yourself this summer, and take advantage of the literary richness of New York in one of the most beautiful settings anywhere.
For more information, including complete schedules, see the Bryant Park website. They will also soon start posting podcasts of some of the events on the website, so check that out if you can’t make it to the park in person..