On Saturday September 24th at Memphis on Main,the Book Fort pop up event New Poets + New Poems will be from 1:15pm to 1:45pm. Caro Macon, C. Russell Price, Kathleen Rooney, and others will perform their poems and other works for lucky listeners.

Since New Poets + New Poems is a live reading of poems and other works by their authors, it seems only fair to highlight the backgrounds of a few participants. I also asked them a couple of questions about what’s like to read to an audience.


Kathleen Rooney is a writer, editor, and teacher. She is a co-founder of Rose Metal Press (one of the publishers featured at Book Fort) and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. She teaches English and creative writing at DePaul University. Her second novel entitled Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk will be published in January 2017.

C. Russell “Dange” Price is a poet currently residing in Chicago, IL. On June 21, 2016, Price’s chapbook Tonight, We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other was released by Sibling Rivalry Press. Originally from Virginia, they are currently teaching at Northwestern University. Price is also a Lambda Literary fellow with several publications in various places including The Offing.

Caroline “Caro” Macon is a poet and playwright originally from Dallas, TX. Earlier this year, she participated in the Wrights of Spring Festival at DePaul University with her play The Women Eat Chocolate. Caroline has served as an editorial intern for Curbside Splendor Publishing (one of the publishers featured at Book Fort). Macon has also published her plays, poems, and book reviews in various publications.

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Smile Politely: What do you enjoy the most (or enjoy the least) about reading your work aloud and in front of an audience?

Rooney: The thing I enjoy most about reading my work aloud in front of an audience is the audience. It's so much fun to get that real-time reaction in a way you can't get when the words are only on the page and not the stage. The thing I enjoy least about reading my work aloud in front of an audience is when other readers fail to respect the time limits set by the event organizers. Few things ruin a reading more effectively than a reader who says "How am I doing on time?" and then reads and reads and reads until the audience is exhausted. It's much better to leave people wanting more.

Caro Macon: To me, the best part about hearing my work out loud is seeing how the tone and rhythm of the piece are completely different than on paper! Like, sometimes I think something is funny, and it is actually sad or vice versa. Also, the noise energy of people responding to something I did while I was alone and quiet is great. My least favorite thing about reading out loud is the nerves can be horrible. I don't necessarily have stage fright, but occasionally there are bad vibes—it really depends on the day, but for the most part, I love reading. I am a playwright so most of my work is meant to be talked through.

C. Russell Price: I write really weird, visceral work; or rather, work that asks for the reader/listener to have a more active role. My readings usually consist of audience participation/call-and-response/singing/organized chaos—I see poetry as an active art form, a dialogue between the writer and the reader. It shouldn’t all be about consumption or simple little head nods along the way. I have no time for boring, contemplative, cute, nice poems. I’m not going to stand up there and drone on and hold you hostage. I’m going to drag you into the world of the poem and ask that you become engaged with the work in a way that you’ve never approached poetry before.

SP: Have you ever had a memorable experience when you've performed (or read) one of your works?

Rooney: The most memorable recent reading experience I had was at the five year anniversary reading for the typewriter poetry collective Poems While You Wait. About twenty-two of us read just one poem each, all killer no filler, and it was fabulous- short, sweet, and super-high-energy.

Price: Last summer, I participated in the Lambda Literary Retreat (a weeklong intensive that focuses on queer writers). During my performance I read one of my new  hyper-queer apocalypse pieces “Death Comes For The Good Ol’ Boys In A Gown Of Royal Blue” and there’s a line that goes “Here, everyone’s a little gay by necessity”—the prompt was for the audience to shout back “YASSSSS” in response. Have you ever heard 100+ loud and proud people shout in unison, in protest, in agreement? It’s pretty much like kissing the face of gay Jesus. If things get strange this weekend, feel free to laugh

Macon: My most memorable performance was a prose performance I did at Salonathon, a Chicago space for "underground, emerging, and genre-defying art." It was about my ovaries! And egg donors. And womanly woes. I cracked an egg into a bowl onstage—it was awesome. I had recently turned twenty-one so it was one of the first times I was allowed to perform at Salonathon.

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You can hear, see, and participate with C. Russell “Dange” Price, Kathleen Rooney, and Caroline “Caro” Macon as they perform their work at New Poets + New Poems at Memphis on Main (55 E. Main Street, Champaign) on Saturday September 24th from 1:15pm to 1:45pm.


Images courtesy of the artists by way of the Pygmalion Festival.

Sarah Keim is a contributing writer for Smile Politely’s Arts section. She's a bit of recluse on social media, but you might bump into her out in the wilds of C-U. She is not a pumpkin or the Pumpkin King, but she is ready for October.