Photo Credit to Robert Evans
Tom Barney and Robert Evans invite poets to share their poetry at their new reading event “Basket House Poetry”. This event is located at Barney Loves Books, and will be held once a month. Robert Evans of Rowan University’s Rowan Writing Arts department created this event. He worked with store owner Tom Barney. Together, they planned an event where local poets can share their work, followed by an open-mic for anyone else who wants to read. When asked to discuss his thought process, Evans stated, “There is a vibrant poetry scene in the state of New Jersey, but much of it is located from Princeton (in the) North. I wanted to start a poetry series that included not only an open mic, but a monthly feature of the reader, to shine a spotlight on poetry here, in South Jersey.”
Both he and Barney expressed the desire to create opportunities for South Jersey poets to display their work. Barney described poetry as a “special subject” that doesn’t get the credit it merits, and that he wanted to use his small bookstore, Barney Loves Books, to give poets a place to share their poetry. Evans’ goal, to “introduce local poetry lovers to poets” and give the community a form to discuss poetry goes hand in hand. Through their cooperation, all of these goals -and more- were met!
To kick off this series of events, Professor Katie Budris, a senior Lecturer at the department, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Glassworks and program coordinator for MA in Writing Arts, read her poetry at Barney Loves Books first ever Basket House Poetry Event on June twenty first, 2023. Budris started the series off strong by reading from her two published chapbooks, Mid-Bloom and Prague In Synthetics. Mid-Bloom is a chapbook about Budris’s relationship to cancer through losing her mother to it in high school, and then her own diagnosis in her thirties. She read five poems from the chapbook, including- “Relapse”, “Rain Turns to Snow”, “How To Survive a Blizzard”, “Diagnosis” and “If Things Were Otherwise”. Budris chose the poems she believed would describe the arc of the book to her audience. Budris also read from her chapbook, Prague In Synthetics which she enjoyed because she hadn’t had a chance to read the work in some time. From this book she read, “Fire Juggler," "Astronomical Sestina," "Za Zrcadlem," "After the Iron Curtain," and "On Burning Children Instead of Books". You can find more information about Katie Budris and her work on her website, and can access her most recent book, Mid-Bloom, here.
Budris expressed that the work was serious, but she still enjoyed sharing them with the audience. The sharing of poetry was made more impactful by the structure of the event. Budris discusses this while describing what she enjoyed about the event. She states, “I loved how intimate it was! Having a small group of poets in the room really made me feel like I could talk about my poems and really connect with the audience. It was great to be able to talk to everyone afterwards as well about my poems and just about writing in general.”
The intimacy, as well as the strength and descriptive nature of her poetry, led to a transfixing atmosphere. As an attendee of the event, I can attest to the transformation the room and event went through. Everyone present was so attentive and responsive that you could hear the reactions to her poetry. Budris work is emotionally impactful, and this led to the room occasionally erupting into gasps accompanying the beauty of her work. The attention the audience paid her was so tangible it felt as real as the cookies offered to guests, or the basket passed around to collect support for Budris as an artist.
Essentially, the comfortable environment created by Barney and Evans, allowed the audience to more fully react and process the work read by Budris. This created an atmosphere -for both Budris and the open-mic speakers- that was supportive. Katie Budris offers advice to those interested in reading their poetry at open-mics events, like this one. She described the experiences as an effective but non-stressful way to read poetry to an audience. She also discusses how during poetry events one can hear from a “variety of writers” and “test out a new piece”. She even describes how reactions from an audience -even to works in progress- have motivated her to continue working on the poem!
Katie Budris’s poetry reading on June twenty-first was a successful start to Barney Loves Book’s new poetry series created by R.G Evans and Tom Barney. This series of poetry events will continue in the months to come. On the third Wednesday of each month, there will be a Basket House Poetry event with a guest reader followed by an open mic! All of these events will be held at Barney Loves Books, located at 22 South Main Street in Woodstown, New Jersey.