Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Muse: Invitation to 'The Mischief Cafe'

Mischief : noun : playful misbehavior

Cover Art for The Mischief Cafe

Have you ever been afraid to write a poem? Do your English students complain that they just don't "get" poetry? Have your poetry-writing workshop participants tired of the same time-worn approaches to sharing and revising their work? Are you dreading that writers' retreat for which you've been tagged leader of entertainment? Do you want to start a poetry group in your community (at the library, in your home, for kids at a homeless shelter, for seniors at your church) but haven't a clue how to do it? 

You need an invitation to The Mischief Cafe! Its menu is long, its seating potentially unlimited and geographically diverse, and one local visit will never be enough, because the menu changes along with the cafe owners.

The Mischief Cafe is conceptbook, and initiative. The concept is the inspiration of TweetSpeak Poetry regulars who have enlivened Webspace by creating a hugely welcoming destination for anyone curious about or already seriously involved in all things poetry. It's fully adaptable, the way all good ideas are, turning on the notion that if you take poetry out of its ivy-covered ivory towers, you'll find new readers and create poetry lovers for life. . . so long as you promise to serve teas (or coffee), cinnamon toast (with and without raisins), and generous helpings of fun with words.

The book, a newly released T.S. Poetry Press title, describes the idea, includes poems* by T.S. Poetry Press authors, and has pages that are blank except for possible titles at their tops. (How those blank pages get used — to illustrate a poem, to keep track of writing tips and prompts, to make poem stacks — are up to the book's readers and your cafe's regulars.) Best of all, the book provides some how-guidance for cafe start-ups. (You won't need Kickstarter or Indiegogo, though we'd like to think either could be tapped successfully for our next innovation in poetry.)

The initiative is open to anyone anywhere in the world who's willing to make toast, pour tea, and tie on a poetry barista's apron. But beware: This is not a job but a passion. . . for thinking, listening to, talking about and writing, sharing, teaching, and reading poetry. You'll want an open mind to visualize how you, your friends, and TweetSpeak Poetry together can create a successful gathering in-home for live readings, poetry journaling, ekphrastic exercises, and video closeups.

* * * * *

Where, when, and how?

Beginning this month, The Mischief Cafe, the initiative, is going on the road with a member of the TweetSpeak Poetry team, who will be bringing real tea and toast to a poetry barista's home. The mischief and merry-making will be up to the attendees (poetry in motion, anyone?). 

But don't think you have to wait for that team member to bring the traveling cafe to your part of the country, or that you have to go to the trouble of hitching a ride east to New Jersey, west to Seattle (shaping up as the second stop for the traveling cafe), or some yet-to-be-Googled place in the middle with Ted Kooser. The Mischief Cafe is about poetry in place: your place, their place, and mine. The book itself is one tool to help you launch your own version of the cafe. Just in case, however, another toolkit is available to help you make the most of a grand opening, and a few well-considered playlists have been assembled for your juke box fans (keep a supply of quarters on hand).

Below you'll find a few more ideas.

Decor? Perhaps some Image-ine place mats or napkins will do (print up a dozen or so). Theme? Consider how many slices of Emily Dickinson's Black Cake you'll need or, if the weather's chilly, whether a thick word soup, heated to perfection, will suit everyone's tastes. Greet newcomers with a tray of top 10 poetic picks, perhaps baskets of poetry fortune cookies (if hungry guests are inclined to be poetry futurists or just feel lucky), a box of haiku for the minimalists or story cubes for prose poems, or a mixed bag of ingredients for list-form poems. A bowl of poetry salad might be needed for those vegans in the group, and a supply of recipes, school lunch menus, and weekly newspaper sections could be kept at the ready to create erasure or found poems. Always finish the evening off with chocolate or WordCandy.  Whether you serve spam on arrival or boxed to go, concoct a sampler of the sweet and savory, or send your guests out the door with a poetry postcard or your cafe's pre-printed calling card (It's time to take poetry home—for life!), your offerings are bound to appeal so long as you don't limit your creativity. Keep it simple or go whole hog. Just don't stress, and have fun!

To help others who might be struggling during their cafe's pre-construction phase, record experiences in your cafe's kitchen and at your tables (remember, there are blank pages in The Mischief Cafe) and then share the experiences online (perhaps on a dedicated FaceBook group page?); that way, we all will learn from each other. Everybody is going to want to taste what you've made, so long as it's not always served from the same spoons. 

* Disclosure: Several poems from my collection Neruda's Memoirs are included in The Mischief Cafe.


L.L. Barkat said...

This is delightful!

Of course I need to come to your café someday :)

SimplyDarlene said...

So many good ideas, miss Maureen! It's looking less likely that I'll be able to make it to the Seattle cafe, but I shall not delay in hosting a poetical toasting.



Kathleen Overby said...

I'm sending out slow mail invitations tomorrow. 20 in all. I hope young people will join us. I hope they invite friends. Can't wait. The Pacific Northwest's rain is good ground for poets. Maureen, are you sure you can't fly out? Darlene, I'll miss you. See you soon, Laura.