Article in The Square about the thriving poetry scene on the seacoast by Debbie Kane

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Sarah Anderson’s Word Barn in Exeter

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Crystal Paradis steps up to the mic at Beat Night at the Press Room

It’s a full house inside The Word Barn, a  19th century barn in Exeter. People mingle or sit in folding chairs, waiting expectantly for the afternoon program of poetry and short story readings to begin. It’s the third
installment of the Silo Series, organized by poet  and writer Sarah Anderson. Nearly every chair is occupied, an indication of how popular the series has become in the short time — less than a year — it’s been in existence.

Similar scenes are playing out in various venues around the Seacoast where seasoned and aspiring poets read their work in front of appreciative audi- ences. “Poetry speaks to people’s lives,” says David Phreaner of Greenland, co-chair of the board of trustees of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program (PPLP) and host of its monthly Poetry Hoot. “It’s a unique way to tell a story.” Continue reading

Article about Beat Night and Tribe in The Sound by Cody John Laplante

Spreading the spoken word

Mike Nelson with The Beat Night Band. Band members left to right: Cynthia Chatis, Mike Barron, Chris Stambaugh, Scott Solsky (behind Mike), Frank Laurino. Not in frame: Scip Gallant

Beat Night celebrates 16 years and gets ready to go global

by Cody John Laplante

Few poetry reading series live to celebrate their 16th birthday and even fewer make it out of cozy bars and bookstores and into the wider world. But that’s exactly what Beat Night at The Press Room will be doing later this month. On Thursday, March 19, the series celebrates its anniversary with a special program featuring 16 of Beat Night’s favorite local poets.

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The Magic of Beat Night : Interview with Christopher Hislop in the Seacoast Spotlight

The Magic of Beat Night. An Interview with Mike Nelson

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View from the mic. Photo by Denise Wheeler

By Christopher Hislop

February 20, 2014

Beat Night at the Press Room in Portsmouth has been an ongoing monthly tradition that occurs on the third Thursday of every month since before the turn of this century — just before: 1999. If you’ve experienced it, you know that magic that occurs at this staple of community-driven culture.

Mike Nelson is trying to capture a bit of that magic with the release of a new recording he has put together entitled, “View from the Mic,” which features the Beat Night Band, and pays tribute to the historic Portsmouth tradition that he’s been contributing to for the last decade. The collection also serves as a companion soundtrack to the book of poetry he’s simultaneously releasing at the upcoming installment of Beat Night, “Another Forty Years.”

Nelson graciously took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions regarding the upcoming engagement on Feb. 20, and how Beat Night inspired him to create these works.

Hislop: Let’s talk about the record. What was the goal behind the project? Did those goals shift at all during the recording process? Are you happy with the finished result?

Mike Nelson: I wanted to capture the magic of what happens at Beat Night. The band improvises something new to go with every poem, and the results range from fun to amazing. We stuck with that formula in the studio. One take, no rehearsing. The recording speaks for itself as to what’s possible with this band. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all turned out.

Hislop: What does Beat Night mean to you?

Nelson: The art of storytelling with music goes way back into our tribal history. I think we all have an innate need to tell our story — to be heard and to listen. Music is like air and water: we need it. Beat Night is a modern version of those ancient rites being served. The fact that anyone in the audience can get up to that microphone and speak the words they’ve written with the music behind them sets Beat Night apart from any other kind of show, and make it a truly communal experience.

Hislop: What does Beat Night mean to the community?

Nelson: For the regulars who have been going for 15 years, and for the people who are new to it, Beat Night is a familial scene. There’s no judgment there at all. Just love and support. I’ve seen a lot of poets evolve in that space. I’ve watched the band grow in their abilities and with their comfort with each other and the poets. It’s always open, always new, and always fun. I can hardly think of anything more indispensable for any community.

Hislop: What are you hoping people take with them when they experience the record?

Nelson: I hope they get the spontaneous joy of it. When someone learns that every track on there was done without rehearsal, in one take, their jaw drops. The album is a testament to the talent of everyone in that band and to the beauty and aliveness that happens when you don’t try to control creativity towards a preconceived outcome, but rather give everybody the space to be themselves and do their thing. We all feel that magic at Beat Night. We felt it in the studio, and I hope others will feel it too when they hear it.

Hislop: What’s planned for the 20th? What can folks expect?

Nelson: The album was made to accompany my new book, “Another Forty Years.” The upcoming Beat Night at the Press Room is a full-on release party for the book, and the album. I have two hours, and we plan on doing what we do at every Beat Night. I’ll be reading poems from the new book and the band will be playing along. Every poem requires a different mood or style. How it works is, I give a few words about the tone and style I want for the poem and the band does the rest. Whatever they come up with, that’s what it is for that poem. Often what the band is doing changes the way I planned on reading the poem. But that’s the beauty of it. The poems are often directed by the music and are expressed in some way I never imagined before. I invited six other regular Beat Night poets to also be on the album and to read at the release party. Another reason I did all this was to show that poetry can have a lot more life to it than people usually expect. If you’ve never seen this sort of thing before then you’re going to be very surprised and entertained and maybe even blown away!

Article about Beat Night in The Wire by Denise Wheeler

Poetry in motion: Beat Night blends poets, musicians and their fans

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Mike Nelson with The Beat Night Band

February 5, 2014

Mike Nelson is a soft-spoken heating technician who describes himself as “mostly introverted.” But when he steps on stage to read his poetry, he transforms. His voice becomes low and serious, rising and falling in a cadence that hints at suspense and mischief. The band behind him improvises a sultry jazz number that wraps around Nelson’s words. He closes his eyes and sways.  One poem leads to another. Nelson’s arms are outstretched, his voice wild with bravado. The music crests and Nelson clasps the mike and tosses his head back, as if he’s in the throes of a fiery sermon. The audience feels it, from the front of the room to the back, as if they’ve just been hit with a gale-force wind. The quiet Nelson is gone; the words and music have morphed him into a rock star.

Such is the power of Beat Night. This monthly gathering of poets and musicians at The Press Room in Portsmouth, which has been running since December 1999, is not so much an open mike night as it is fertile turf, a place where the dual seeds of poetry and music cause artists to evolve and communities to grow. Continue reading