Poetry Festival Preview: Oh, Bernice!

Oh, Bernice

Day: Sunday

Time: 11:40 AM

Stage: The Algonquin

Interview with curator John Rice


1. Tell us a little bit about your organization.

This is not like other series. We are multi-genre, multi-cultural, multi-purpose. Oh, Bernice was started by the writing collective of the same name, to give work life after workshop. We are committed to sharing the work we develop in conversation reflective of the diversity of the place we live in. Each month is curated by a different Bernician, and features at least one reader from Oh, Bernice. We then bring in friends, heroes, strangers with talent, etc. to read alongside us, to give our work new context and to give ourselves new challenges to rise to. In this way, everything you’ll see and hear is new. This is innovation. You’ll see the same faces but never get the same reading twice. We’ve had the privilege of reading with Guggenheim Fellows and True Crime writers, Obie Award nominees and former ACT UP activists, Grammy Award Winners and the Queens Poet Laureate. And we’ve become better for it.

2. Who is reading in your slot at the Festival and why?

For this event, I really wanted to give folks a great slice of Bernice, to showcase the diverse voices we bring to the table, so I put together a lineup entirely of (as we jokingly call ourselves) Bernicians. John Reid Currie is, you’ll notice, is older than your average MFA-er. That’s because Bernice doesn’t discriminate against anything, except talent—and John has it by the barrel full. Sachiko Clayton is new to the collective but her exploration of cultural-hybridity is top notch. Plus, she knits. Brian Kim is constantly toeing the line between poetry and fiction. He’s postmodern in a very funny, accessible way, and is always a pleasure to hear read. And, rounding up the reading, is myself, John Rice, because I eat poetry for breakfast, and I hate to be left out of any party.

3. Who else are you looking forward to seeing at the Festival?

Cate Marvin, Dorothea Lasky, Bob Holman never disappoints. I’m also looking forward to catching up with Earshot, who I’ve always considered to be the genesis for ours and a lot of other reading series around the city. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about Atlas Review and Feminist Poets In Low Cut Blouses, so I’m looking forward to finding out more about them too.

4. Did you attend the festival last year? If so, what was your favorite thing about it?

I did go last year! I made some hoagies, grabbed a friend, and enjoyed a great day outside. It was an easy decision to apply for a spot this year.

5. Why is live poetry important?

To paraphrase Col. John “Hannibal” Smith of television’s The A-Team, “I love it when people come together.” (Did I mention I have an MFA in poetry? They should ask for it back after that joke.) The literary scene in New York is so vast that poets get pushed into little cliques. It can be really insular, at times, only hanging out with the folks that you know. The great thing about a festival like this is that it puts everyone all in one place. I love meeting new people and I love hearing work I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to hear before.