SpoFest Producer, Poet James Bryant, Creates #WritersCommunity through Unique Open-Mic Event
James Bryant calls himself a "blind artist." Hailing from Sedalia, Missouri, eighty-some miles north of Kansas City and home of composer, "King of Ragtime" Scott Joplin. Bryant is also an actor, comedian, musician, writer, audio engineer, promoter, and coordinator. Makes sense as he runs his own Indie internet radio station and SpoFest too, an open-mic-styled event to bring writers together. Bryant successfully expanded the live open-mic during the pandemic to keep writers connected from home.
You might have seen his logo or calls for poetry on our new Facebook page, the Kansas City Writers' Group. It's where regional writers, poets, authors, and editors find creative networking. We wanted to know what SpoFest was all about. So we joined Bryant online for a live interview to find out just what made his open-mic so successful, and we discovered a poet who believes in community.
In March of 2020, when the live event had to be canceled just before a big book launch celebration, Bryant's response was, "Okay, I'm not going to let this stop me." Bryant said he found the Zoom platform to be accessible. "Started using that... and as the old saying goes, the rest is history." At first, they met every Saturday evening starting in June 2020, and then Bryant decided he needed more time for himself to be creative. "So we back down to first and third Tuesday of every month. Four featured readers per event." Currently, they are booked through October of 2021.
How does it work? Bryant decided to keep the open-mic creative by having two types of events. The event is streamed live on their Facebook page, or the audience can join the zoom to take part in all the segments, conversations, etc. One is the writing prompt open mic with fun segments such as word prompts, idiom/ saying of the night, a Book drawing, a gift card drawing, Q & A segment. Not to mention, time to hang out afterward and chat-including all the conversations in the comments where authors can also share links to their work. Visit here to find out more.
"Embrace the darkness. It is not for the faint of heart."
Where do his poetic roots come from? Bryant credits his father, a Vietnam veteran, for his start in writing. During the war, other soldiers would pay his father to write love poems for their girlfriends. They were rhymed love poems individualized to the description by each patron. Years later, Bryant laughingly remembers bringing his own poems to his dad and hearing, "It's good, son, but it doesn't rhyme."
Bryant's love for literature and poetry was constant, but he really didn't start writing, he says, until his 20s and 30s. He remembers he wrote around 200 poems due to a breakup. Bryant states he laughs a the quality of those poems now, but they gave him a start, and he hasn't stopped. Today he has gone back to formed poetry and writes something he likes to call "Dark Haiku."
His dark haiku combines the simplicity of haiku with dark poetry. It turns the traditional haiku on its head, replacing the tranquil, natural themes with something "not peaceful." Bryant appreciates the challenge, trying to invoke fear with only 17 syllables to work with. A haiku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world. Although Bryant maintains the seventeen syllable form, he says his work "evokes images of darkness, sadness, despair, hopelessness, the macabre, and even horror."
James’s first dark haiku chapbook, “At Death’s Door Knocking” will be coming out sometime later this year. He says he's selecting from over 160 haikus for the book and working with artists.
Embrace the darkness. It is not for the faint of heart...There's always going to be darkness in one form or another, to a lesser or greater degree. Imagine me to be a Hollywood movie director, and it's my job to scare the hell out of you.
Under the blood moon
something wicked this way comes
If you are interested in hosting a local open mic, why not contact your local bookstore or coffee shop. Don't forget to find sponsors to help support your time and energy. Are you local?
People have been contacting us looking for those who can emcee, produce or deejay, organize an open mic. Contact us for more info.
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Flying Ketchup Press ® grassroots and artist-run, we are a trademarked small press in Kansas City using traditional and hybrid publishing formats established to develop new and diverse voices in poetry and short story. Our dream is to salvage lost treasure troves of written and illustrated work-- to create worlds of wonder and delight; to share stories.
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