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Reading nights provide platform for poets, writers

Caroline Japal

Jonny Booker

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The Pure Products program will host another night of creativity, coffee, art and literature at Monarch Espresso Bar tonight.

“We had such a huge turnout that we’ve actually had seating issues,” Sarah Hughes said. “Bring a blanket to sit on or a camp chair if you’ve got one.”  

Hughes is in her first year as a full-time faculty member at The University of Alabama and wanted to help organize the reading nights, she said. 

“Because I really liked the idea of establishing a creative writing community in town, an event that people can look forward to … that cultivates a community of writers,” she said.  

She acknowledged the irony of such an event because it is focused toward writers—people who generally keep to themselves and write as a way of processing the world privately—which is what makes this event a unifying experience. 

“I think people benefit in many ways from both our event types—Art Night readings and open mic nights,” said Eric Parker, an English instructor who has been helping organize the Pure Products program for seven years. “For the Art Night readings like this Thursday, we have readers who range from students to instructors to tenure-track faculty, so students get to see their peers and professors perform their creative works, a side of them many students might not know their teachers have; and teachers get to see their students perform work, sometimes even pieces produced in their classes. I’ve seen terrified first-timers become seasoned veterans who grow in their confidence and their work over time.”

Hughes said poetry was more of a hobby until she got to college, where she was able to grow with the help of a community of writers that she discovered as a freshman. Since then, she has published many works in literary magazines, and her first book of poetry is being published next year. But even if you are not particularly interested in prose or poetry, these events could have something for you. 

Alec Rogers, a freshman majoring in management information systems, said he is interested in going, even though it does not seem like something that would usually appeal to him. These events, as emphasized by both of their organizers, are meant to foster a community in the Tuscaloosa area. People can enjoy time together over drinks, including alcohol, regardless of whether or not they write.

According to Parker, the Pure Products reading night gets its name from a William Carlos Williams poem whose first lines read, “The pure products of America / go crazy—” 

“That [line] happens to be an apt description of our events and our writing,” Parker said. 

Pure Product Nights began as a way for English instructors to get together once a month to share their writing over drinks while also discussing teaching, writing and life outside of academia, but has grown into a community event, a place where people can come together around a common interest in prose, poetry and Tuscaloosa. 

Reading nights at the Monarch Espresso Bar take place twice monthly on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. One night out of the month is an open mic night for students, faculty and anyone else who steps up, to come share their work. The other is pre-scheduled and features writers ranging from undergraduate to faculty. Tonight, Oct. 5, is the latter, with these writers on the roster: Nikhil Bilwakesh, Jamarey Marquis Carter, Emrys Donaldson and Bonnie Whitener.

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Reading nights provide platform for poets, writers