This Saturday marks the inaugural night of brand-new Bushwick reading series Fireside Follies, at Brooklyn Fire Proof‘s gallery space, starting at 7pm. Fireside Follies, curated by Numu Arts Collective members Michael Lala and Eric Nelson, will pair experienced writers with young up-and-comers and seeks to “confirm the reputation of Bushwick as a new mecca for fresh contemporary art and culture.” I recently asked them what the hell they thought they were doing starting another reading series in this city…
What’s the Brooklyn Numu Arts Collective all about? Is this an official Numu event or a Numu offshoot? (Why “Numu”? Do you sometimes just sit around saying “numu” over and over again? I do.)
Mike: Ah yes. I probably say “Numu” in my sleep, while drooling, and it seems that everyone loves the sound of it. This is not a Numu event, but Eric and I are both members of the collective—in fact, we met there at the writer’s group meetings, which are basically very in-depth, weekly workshops.
Eric: Numu means “growth” in Arabic. The collective is home to the writers group and puts on readings, but also holds meetings for other types of artists, and they put on drawing classes, figure drawing, musical events—you name it. We love them.
I’ve never been to Brooklyn Fire Proof, but I assume—insofar as your event is called the Fireside Follies—that there will be a fireplace involved. And what will account for the “Follies”? Whence the name?
Eric: There will be a fireplace of sorts, but we’re not giving it away.
Mike: As far as the name goes, let’s be honest. We’re going to be getting drunk, telling stories, and laughing/commiserating with each other. We wanted something for the fall and winter, and we were thinking a lot in terms of what we were going to do with our original venue before circumstances forced us to move. For the “Follies” part, we wanted this to be somewhat lighthearted, like in a black and white cartoon. We want these readings to be more like going to a punk rock show, rather than a reading at Poets House or something. The people reading are the people you see at the bar on Friday night, the guy walking out of the bathroom, the girl holding her hair back outside.
You seem to have a disdain for gimmicks and “single-genre” readings, but these are often good ways to insure an audience in a city filled with readings (and writers). How do you plan on getting bums in seats?
Mike: I have to say that I disagree with your premise here—gimmicks and single-genre readings are overplayed and boring. Quality writing isn’t. I think we’re seeing this with a lot of contemporary writers and poets—the idea that they have to have a hook or gimmick to get people’s attention—but at the end of the day, if your writing sucks, it sucks.
Eric: We think we can get people in the door because we’re doing something local, with local writers, we’re providing bigger names, we’re keeping the readings short and the pace fast, and we’re doing it at a fun space with plenty of booze. We’ve done it before, and we filled our venue till it was standing room only. We’re also looking into bringing multimedia artists, visual artists, and musicians in later on in the series, so there’ll be that as well.
Who’s at the inaugural October 23rd reading? And do you have anything special planned to start things off?
Eric: The lineup is Emily Gould (And the Heart Says Whatever), Melissa Febos (Whip Smart), Robin Grearson, Matthew Zingg and Justin Richards. If we were to do anything special, we wouldn’t announce it.
Between you and me, what kind of booze will be available at this “gallery space”? (That always makes me nervous.)
Mike: BFB is a bar with two stage/studio spaces. I’ll be drinking Maker’s, and Eric is a militant straightedge, but you can pretty much get what you want. Their tea is pretty good, too.