U35: A Time and Place for the Under 35 Crowd to Shine

by Jacquelyn Malone

We interviewed our own Program Director, Laurin Macios, about one of the newest programs Mass Poetry has undertaken, the bi-monthly U35 reading series at The Marliave, 10 Bosworth St, in Boston. U35 features emerging poets who are under 35.

How and when did the U35 series begin?
Daniel Evans Pritchard started U35 about five years ago, when he was sitting around a bar with some friends, thinking about how there weren't really venues for young poets' voices in the Boston poetry scene. They decided to change that. And they wanted a place that would allow young poets to talk and mingle--not a bookstore or other venue that felt more formal. The Marliave agreed to be their venue, and that has worked really well.

What makes the Marliave a great venue?
When you walk into the Marliave's upstairs lounge you're sort of transported into this jazzy vintage scene--it has a very poetic vibe. The room is lined on one side with tables and on the other with a bartop, and in between readings there is room for everyone to jump up and mingle. It works really well. The staff is so nice, always happy to have us, and the bartender Nick takes great care of everyone. It's just a fun and funky venue with great energy.  

How did Mass Poetry inherit the series?
I had been wanting to attend U35 for a while and kept missing the readings. Finally I made it to one, and at the beginning of the reading, Daniel, who was MCing, mentioned that it was the penultimate event. He just didn't have the capacity to run it anymore. He said jokingly, "If anyone wants to take it over..." I thought it would be a nice addition to Mass Poetry's programming, so I approached him after the reading and the rest is history. I think U35 functions as a nice bridge between Mass Poetry's work with young people and our engagement of the Massachusetts poetry world.  

Besides being under 35, what other criteria do you use to select readers?
It's a really open process. People interested in reading sign up online, and for each reading date, we go through and look for three poets who would be really interesting to see together. We like to batch together readers whose poetry is dissimilar to keep the audience on their toes.

What do you enjoy most about working with the series? 
I love hearing three really different poets share their work at each reading. I love that the readers are usually nice, interesting people who are excited to share their work, meet new people, and kick back to talk poetry over a drink and some good food. The atmosphere at U35 is warm and welcoming, and I love talking with new people each time, as well as catching up with our regulars who come to every reading. 

Approximately how many poets have participated in the series?
There are three readers at each reading, six readings per year. Mass Poetry is going into our ninth reading, so we'll have hosted 27 poets so far. But before we took it over, it ran for about four years, so there are about 72 U35 veterans BMP (Before Mass Poetry).

Has the series grown a group of regulars, or does a new audience appear at every reading?
U35 has some regulars, but we also see new people at each reading. It's the best of both worlds, with familiar faces and new friends at every reading. 

Do you see the work of younger poets different from that of older poets? If so, in what ways?
I see some of their opportunities as different, especially in terms of venues to share their work. There are a handful of reading series that feature established writers, and a handful of reading series that provide open mic time, but there isn't as much in between for young or emerging poets to share a good chunk of their work (our readers get 15 min each), have some publicity (both in terms of promoting the event and videoing the reading), and share the stage with each other. 

Do you have the series mapped out for the rest of the year?
Yes, we do, and we have some great readers ahead for the rest of 2015. The next reading with open slots is in January, and people can sign up at masspoetry.org/u35signup.