Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore: Weekly Events
The first is the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel’s Poetry Thursdays series, hosted by Christian Thiede. This reading happens every Thursday (7-9 PM) and includes both an open mic reading and a featured performance by a local or regional writer. On an average Thursday attendees will hear everything from academic poetry, spoken word, story-telling, and slam poetry—there is no “preferred” style of expression. The Cartel has a tight-knit core of local poets, but the environment is welcoming to newcomers and emerging writers. We (The Triangle) first began attended Poetry Thursdays in the spring of 2013 and were met with handshakes and invitations to introduce ourselves. Readers often precede their performance with their names and some words of gratitude. The open mic is very low key and friendly, with Thiede inviting readers to just stand up and take the mic when they feel so moved. If there’s time left over after everyone has read, readers are invited to return to the stage and share more.
If you work late on Thursday nights or just need a double dose of poetry in your week, consider attending Nathaniel Gadsden’s Friday night series, the Writer’s Wordshop. The Wordshop takes place every Friday night from 7-9 PM in the same location at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. The friendly, community atmosphere is evocative of a spiritual gathering and often the subject matter of poems and stories shared highlight this spirituality present in the room. The Wordshop has been taking place in Harrisburg since 1977 and when we attended last week we were surprised to hear that some of the attendees had been coming for over ten years! The eight-year old daughter of one of these long-time attendees was now beginning to read at the Wordshop (and she was incredible). The Wordshop is a family-friendly environment, centered strongly around spoken word, slam, and socially/political poetry.
Last week, we attended both series, back-to-back. On Thursday the Cartel featured Lancaster poet Daina Savage reading from her book, Traces. Savage read with grace, patience, and careful attention to the sounds of each part of each of her words. The poems in her book center on the natural imagery of Lancaster county and Northern Maryland—topics and images that have trademarked her work thus far. But don’t expect purely pastoral poems. The audience was pleased and intrigued to hear her themes range from fragility and brokenness to darker perspectives one might not initially expect from the peaceful yoga instructor.
On Friday we met the local legend and series organizer himself, Nathaniel Gadsden. Gadsden is a preacher and believes in the power of community and positivity. He encouraged readers to rise up and use the microphone as an outlet for expression and exchange of ideas ranging from emotion and social problems to spirituality. The featured reader was Doris Washington, a spiritual author who read from her array books. Her newest book, A Time, As Season, And Always Love is a compilation of inspiring poems and messages about seeking inner peace and solace in God’s Love. She opened her performance Friday night by stating that Nathaniel was, “a really incredible and important part of this community.” We can’t argue with that.