How do you recognize a literary institution when you stumble upon one? Roughly two years ago, Amy asked me if I wanted to go to a poetry reading with her. We had both recently decided we needed more English-y things in our lives after spending a very fun (for us) hour on the phone debating how to best diagram the sentence “Uptown funk you up.” (We totally figured out how, by the way, and we’re very proud of ourselves.)
I hadn’t been to a poetry reading since college, and I was a little hesitant to go to what I assumed would be an open mic night to hear about the abyss of someone’s soul. We made bingo cards for amusement–drink every time someone mixes metaphors– and reminded ourselves that there was a bar and therefore worth our while. We showed up to Ohio City’s Market Garden Brewery to find a seat, grabbed a beer, and were pretty quickly blown away.
This was not an open mic night. This was a reading done by published authors from the Cleveland/Ohio area, and we were subsequently left awestruck by what we heard. We left, raving to each other about the turns of phrase we remembered, the authors’ voices, and the very personable MC.
Brews & Prose has quietly and capably turned itself into a gathering place for the creative-minded. Every first Tuesday of the month, it is now required to arrive early in order to secure a seat (we love sitting in the front row) and maybe order dinner. Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland has a beautifully appointed basement bar, the Ohio City Room, that creates an intimate atmosphere. Every seat is one of the best in the house. A podium in the middle of the room in front of a cozy fireplace sets the stage and directs your attention, and once the reading begins, you’re hooked.
We’ve had some pretty memorable readers over the past two years of going to Brews and Prose. The first day of LeBron James’ free agency, two authors read from works about Akron and LeBron. David Giffels also graduated St. Vincent St. Mary high school and went directly into the NBA… as a ball boy. The other, Scott Raab, wrote a book entitled The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of Lebron. Readers are chosen thoughtfully and with a sense of timeliness. Recently, the first poet laureate of Ohio, Amit Majmudar, whose reading amounted to more of a performance, gave a fantastic reading that had both Amy and I clamoring to buy books. Oh, the books are available at the door, by the way. And every book purchased earns you a free beer. It’s a perfect literary event for me.
Brews & Prose is an amazing way to lose yourself in someone else’s words for an hour or two. We have heard poetry, memoirs, authors who publish their words alongside beautiful original photographs, performance poets, and flash fiction. De’John Hardges, a sophomore at the Cleveland School of the Arts, read at Brews & Prose after reading at the White House. The diversity in invited authors, the shifts in tone, and the highly unique voices all combine for an amazing feeling that I can’t say I experience anywhere else.
And then there’s Dave. Dave Lucas, the wonderful MC and co-founder of Brews and Prose, sets the casual mood perfectly. Beer in hand, he never makes a stuffy academic introduction for the authors: he speaks of them as if everyone in the room knows them as well as he does, and that by some happenstance we are all just here together to hear our mutual friend read some poetry to us. Dave is an accomplished poet himself. Most recently he was a recipient of the Ohio Arts Prize and both Amy and I are huge fans of his poetry collection Weather, a carefully constructed collection of poems about Cleveland (say that 3 times fast). Where some academic readings can make you feel isolated or unworthy of the reader’s or event’s brilliance, Dave made us feel like we belonged there and we’ve been true believers that “Literature is better with beer” ever since.
So join the fun at Market Garden Brewery this Tuesday, June 7th @ 7 pm. The readers this month are Terrance Hayes, author of How to Be Drawn and and francine j. harris author of play dead and allegiance. Can’t make it this month? Don’t worry! Brews and Prose is the first Tuesday of every month, so join us when you can!
Lit & Love,