I caught up with Michael Geffner recently, which, if you’re a facebook friend or are among his 8000+ twitter followers (@MikeGeffner), you know is no small feat. Geffner is founder, producer, and director of “The Inspired Word” (@TheInspiredWordNYC) series and as such he puts together a show every Thursday night, year round.
We met because Geffner is the mastermind behind this Thursday’s “Big Apple BAP: NYC’s Best American Poets” at One and One Bar & Restaurant (downstairs Nexus Lounge) 76 East 1st Street (corner of 1st Avenue) Manhattan. (Phone: (917) 703-1512. Cover charge is $15.) The program begins at 6:30 PM and brings together a blockbuster lineup of new and established poets, all of whom have been included in at least one volume of The Best American Poetry (Mark Bibbins, Jennifer Michael Hecht, David Shapiro, R. Erica Doyle, Jerome Sala, Elaine Equi, Michael Cirelli, Stacey Harwood, George Green, Carly Sachs, Matthew Yeager, Amy Holman, and host David Lehman.)
How did this award winning sports writer and journalist become a poetry impresario and what does he bring to the experience that sets his series apart from others?
Though he has a life-long love of poetry, Geffner was not part of the poetry scene until 2009 when he became involved in organizing shows for a restaurant in his Queens neighborhood. When the restaurant closed, he decided to keep at it and scouted locations in Manhattan. At the same time, as he attended many readings and surveyed the landscape of NYC poetry, his vision of a successful series sharpened. Above all, the evenings had to be entertaining. “The audience should feel inspired when the evening ends,” says Geffner. For this to happen, the poets have to know how to read their own work in a way that engages the audience and keeps them wanting more. Second, the series would have to ignore the divisions that can keep people away from poetry. Geffner is partial to unlikely pairings: an evening’s lineup might put a spoken-word poet with a poet who writes in form or a “Cornelia Street café” poet with a “Nuyorican” poet. In conceiving his evenings, Geffner is guided by his belief that "no one owns poetry. No one can define poetry for you. No one can tell you it's not poetry if you hear the poetry in the words.”
Geffner brings a marketer’s know-how to promoting his evenings so that they are regularly sold out. He makes full use of social media, an extensive mailing list, and his regularly updated blog. And top notch videographers and photographers record the evenings for an ever-growing archive.
He’s especially excited about Thursday’s “Big Apple BAP.” It will be a “celebration of pure writing by some of New York City’s finest,” says Geffner. “It’s going to be a helluva an evening.”
We couldn’t agree more. Be there. Details here.