There’s no long–winded lingering over your cocktail at a Seersucker Shots reading event. This month’s tagline is “a quick hit of poetry.”
The logo features an empty shot glass. And the event’s appeal, says the host, is that it only lasts 45 minutes.
“We’re all just having fun,” explains Erika Jo Brown. “We try to keep it lax, tell jokes. Booze is essential.”
“It helps tear down that fourth wall of pretentiousness that’s sometimes associated with poetry,” adds co–host B.J. Love.
Seersucker Live, Savannah’s literary nonprofit reading series, has been bringing together wordsmiths and book–lovers to sling words and knock back drinks for a couple years now. But Seersucker Shots, the poetry portion of the series, only came onto the scene when Love and Brown swept into Savannah last spring.
Their story is almost too precious: they fell in love through writing each other subtle love poems in class at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. As time went on, the poems became more to the point.
“I got tired of disguising her name in the word America,” Love jokes.
Love and Brown, both published writers, are now grazing local academic pastures; he as a full–time instructor at Savannah State, she as a writer at SCAD. Having had a poetry reading series in mind already, when they heard about Seersucker, they pitched the addition of poetry to Seersucker founder Zach Powers.
Brown: “I said, Zach Powers, I’m going to steamroll your reading series.”
On Friday, Feb. 1, attendees will find themselves cozily crammed among the stacks at the Book Lady to listen to three writers share their poetry. There will be refreshments, a makeshift cash bar tended by one of the board members and a bit of local live music — saxophone trills, accordion crimes, Casio–tones and maybe even a ukulele.
It’s worth noting that Joni Saxon–Giusti — the Book Lady herself —never charges local authors to host events in her space, or consignment fees to stock and sell their books.
“She’s a nexus for literary Savannah,” Brown says about the Book Lady. “She does it specifically just to have people in the book store.”
“Personally, I just like to come to the show,” Saxon–Giusti says. “One of the many fringe benefits.”
This week’s lineup includes poets Heather Christle, Christopher DeWeese and Mark Leidner.
Christle won the 2012 Believer Poetry Award for her collections The Difficulty Farm and The Trees The Trees. In 2009–11, she was the Poetry Writing Fellow at Emory, and she now teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. Her husband and fellow reader DeWeese recently published his debut poetry collection, The Black Forest.
Leidner, a native Georgian and UGA alumnus, teaches at the University of Massachusetts. His published works include Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me, a book of poetry, and The Angel in The Dream of Our Hangover, a collection of aphorisms.
To lure award–winning authors to Savannah with no intention of paying them outright isn’t as hard as you’d think.
“Naturally, the people we invite are people whose poems we like,” Love admits. “Sometimes we take them to Clary’s for breakfast in the morning and buy them the hopple poppel.”
At its core, Seersucker’s a labor of love for the written word. Donations from one event just about cover the costs of peddling eight–dollar bourbon out of a closeted alcove at the next event.
Shots never pays anyone to come here to read. “We say the only thing we can promise you is that the book store will be so full that people will be poking their heads in the door and not be able to come in,” says Love.
“Really, we sell them on the people. So our audience is the most important thing we have to offer.”
The Shots reading list of past performers include both hosts Brown and Love, Russel Jaffe, Janika Stuckey, local favorite Patricia Lockwood, and Aaron Belz.
The poetry is only part of it. After the show, which already feels a bit like a dinner party — very intimate — there’s inevitably an informal gathering at some local pub or in somebody’s backyard circling up around a fire pit.
When you ask any of the Seersucker folks about future plans for expanding the breadth and scope of the series, their answers are hazy — it’s not so much a business as it is a good time.
“Maybe bring in dancers,” Brown thinks.
Brainstorms Love: “Collaborate with visual artists, do a gallery show, maybe. Do something surprisingly, in a good way. Because you know there’s such thing as surprising in bad way.”
Meanwhile, the literary community in Savannah is still expanding, solidifying and glomming back onto itself in a big way. Brown and Love say the various lit cliques and hangers–on around Savannah — Spoken Word Festival, DEEP, Peacock Guild, Unchained Tour, Savannah Book Festival — use events like Seersucker Shots as opportunities to network, intermingle to keep on solidifying the lit community.
“Everyone’s kind of looking out for each other, ” Love says. “It’s what keeps us interested: the sense of being a part of something bigger. The community, the community building, the community we already have ...”
“And we like the parties,” Brown says, interrupting.
Like one big, happy, slightly inebriated literary family.
Where: The Book Lady, 6 E. Liberty St.
When: At 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1
Suggested donation: $2