Calling all poets, writers, rappers, lyricists, readers and performers; calling wordsmiths and word-lovers of every stripe.
The Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., will host "A Night of Spoken Word" from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday
"A Night of Spoken Word" is co-hosted by WXPI 88.5 Williamsport Community Radio. The Sun-Gazette caught up with WXPI Station Manager Isaac Conner and Grey Art Gallery Co-Founder John Yogodzinski to talk about their upcoming evening of spoken word.
PHOTO BY JIM O’CONNELL
Mick Alan Ricci is seen rapping at the first “NIght of Spoken Word” at the Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St. The event is presented by WXPI-FM 88.5 Williamsport Community Radio.
Next week's event will be the second-ever "A Night of Spoken Word." The first "Night of Spoken Word" took place last month at the Grey Gallery. According to Yogodzinski, the gallery hopes to turn this into monthly event.
"We're just going to keep it going and see if the interest is still there," Yogodzinski said. "Hopefully some of the same people that came the first night will be back and hopefully a whole new crowd of people will stop by and contribute."
Considering that it was the first time the event had ever been staged, last month's "Night of Spoken Word" had an impressive turnout. According to Yogodzinski, 65 people showed up. "It blew me away," he said. "It's funny because we don't have that much seating at the gallery and when people started filing in and kept filing in, I was running around upstairs trying to find things that people could sit on. I didn't expect anything like that. What's great is that a third or more of the people there actually participated and read something. We had enough to fill a whole two hours with amazing spoken word."
Isaac Conner, who moved to Williamsport just over a year ago, said last month's turnout was both unexpected and encouraging. "It was phenomenal," Conner said. "I'm from San Diego, but I spent two years in the San Francisco Bay area before moving to Williamsport. I don't know if you know much about that area, but Marin-Sausalito, the area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a haven for the Beatnik Generation. There are a lot of poet laureates there. I used to go to spoken word events all over the city, and it was so nice to have this event here in a legitimate art gallery. It made me feel like I was back at home."
Conner said he was also surprised by the diversity of talent showcased in the first "Night of Spoken Word." "The turnout was really refreshing," he said. "There was a diverse demographic there. We had young kids, we had older gentlemen, and people from all over that I hadn't met before. People read all kinds of things -hip-hop, poetry, prose, song lyrics, memoirs. I think this was an event where people who have a knack for the spoken word leapt out of the woodwork, because we haven't really had anything like this in town before. In Williamsport, we're at an advantage -as opposed to most towns of this size - because we actually have a wealth of extremely talented people who are expressing themselves creatively."
Conner said the event has been a benefit to other creative endeavors in the city, breathing life into Williamsport's already-vibrant art scene. "All these creative activities bleed into each other," he said. "As far as the art scene is concerned, I think the music scene helps breathe life into the spoken word, the spoken word breathes life into the music and into the art scene and - of course - the art scene has given us the perfect platform for spoken word."
According to both Yogodzinski and Conner, the Grey Gallery is the ideal location for "A Night of Spoken Word." The gallery lends a degree of seriousness and legitimacy to the proceedings. "It's perfect. You could not ask for a better place," Conner said. "The best spoken word venues I went to in the Bay Area were always art galleries. There's a sort of ambience when you're surrounded by such refined expressions as the art in the Grey Gallery - I mean, it's on par with galleries in New York. To have spoken word in a place like that, it makes everyone pick it up a notch and take what they're doing a little bit more seriously than if it were at the park or somewhere that's not surrounded by these visual representations of people's souls that they've poured so much into."
Yogodzinski said the gallery's atmosphere seemed especially suited to the intimacy of spoken word. "I like the idea that this can be a venue that isn't just about the artwork on the walls," he said. "I think in the area, other than a couple of bars that do an open mic night, there aren't many places that are big enough to attract a decent-sized crowd, or intimate enough so that you're not talking over the football game that's also being shown on TV. At the gallery, it's all about the people there."
Asked whether they thought "A Night of Spoken Word" had staying power, both Conner and Yogodzinski were optimistic. "Ultimately, if there's not quality or talent being offered, it won't have staying power," Conner said. "You have to have something that's worth people's time. I think there's a strong enough artistic community here. There's talent and, more importantly, there's an equal amount of passion. I'm sure "Spoken Word" will continue throughout the year; we're just going to continue to build momentum. More people will jump on the idea that they have a chance to be heard."
"I think we have a ton of talent in Williamsport. It never ceases to amaze me. I think the event has staying power. Everyone loved it the first time around. Hopefully more people turn up for this one and I'll have to scramble and try to find even more chairs," Yogodzinski said, laughing. "That wouldn't be a bad thing."
"A Night of Spoken Word" is open to anyone interested in reading poetry, prose, freestyle verse, song lyrics, or written material of any kind. Those interested in participating should arrive at 6:30 p.m. to sign up and so that a running order can be established. For more information visit www.greyartgallery.com.