By Tammy Scileppi
What do you get when you mix a hefty dose of poetry, prose and spoken word with a dash of music, then sprinkle it throughout a popular Long Island City watering hole?
Just ask New York City’s open mic guru Mike Geffner.
The longtime Forest Hills resident and his The Inspired Word team — who schedule spoken word events around the city — have organized an all-inclusive literary arts gathering like no other: The first Queens Lit Fest 2015.
Set for this upcoming weekend at LIC Bar on Vernon Boulevard, the event will showcase readings by diverse Queens-based writers and poets, and will feature current Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella, as well as her predecessor, Paolo Javier.
“I was surprised that there was nothing else like it before,” Geffner said. “We’re trying to make it inclusive for spoken word artists and poets, academic poets, mystery writers, and even journalists. It’s all about bringing the borough’s grassroots literati together in one venue.”
Both poet laureates will be reading works from their recently published poetry books in LIC Bar’s private room, where the open mic portion will take place, as well as showcased readings by local writing groups, according to Geffner, who noted that folks can also find Queens bookselling vendors and reading series tables in the outdoor garden area. Astoria Bookshop, Fresh Meadows Poets, Queens Book Festival, among others, will be there.
Lisella said she will read pieces from her books “Two Naked Feet,” “Amore on Hope Street” and “Thieves in the Family,” Sunday. Lisella noted that she will likely read four poems from her most recent “Thieves” collection, which includes the following line: “Thieves in the Family appear by day and night in gardens, dreams, encounters with the dead whose spirits transcend the web and weft of time.”
“I like to think of my work as poetic vignettes that I try to capture with a cinematographer’s eye, and lace them with my love of dialogue, and my endless fascination with stories I have heard on subways, planes, in kitchens, and in foreign countries,” Lisella, who has lived in Astoria for 40 years, said. “I picture corridors of arrivals and departures, bringing together a seemingly disparate cast of colorful and rich characters who have more in common than you might think—a collection of postcards from working-class Queens to the Global Village.”
Javier, who will be featured Saturday at 3 p.m., recently published a new book of poetry, “Court of the Dragon.”
“I’ll be devoting my set to performances of poems from the book, which will include some musical interventions by Listening Center (David Mason), with whom I recorded an EP’s length of collaborations based on the first chapter of my book,” he said.
The festival’s open mic portion is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. both days. Sign-ups begin at 11 a.m., and spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Anybody from Queens can pretty much get up there and do five minutes,” said Geffner, who expects about 50 people to show up for it.
Reading series group members will participate in the event on Saturday and Sunday.
Groups will include Canvas of Words, Mystery Writers of America/Queens Edition, First Tuesdays, Ridgewood Writers and LIC Reading Series.
“I’m a Queens person,” Geffner, who once lived in Far Rockaway, said. “I wanted to do something for the borough.”
This event is 21-plus and is funded in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.
If You Go
When: Saturday, Aug. 1 and Sunday, Aug. 2, 11 am – 5 pm
Where: LIC Bar, 45-58 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City
Cost: Free, donations will be accepted