For three years now, the Johnson City Poets Collective has hosted a unique poetry contest: the Poetry Pub Crawl. Poets submit poems, finalists are selected, then the poetry community and public come together one pub at a time to hear finalists and other readers share their poems. This was the year I finally had a clear calendar to attend, and being there made me wish I’d been able to attend all of them. This year’s theme was Poetry of Place, and the diverse interpretations of place made for interesting listening—from body parts to landmarks, from places in the heart to towns across time.
A Community Crawls
On a perfect fall evening, the group began at Atlantic Ale House’s outdoor venue, followed by a short walk to Wautaga Brewing Company’s rooftop for a sunset accompaniment to verse. The crowd grew over the course of the evening, as more poets and poetry lovers joined in. (Unsuspecting pub guests joined the event, too!) At the colorful Little Animals Brewery, it was standing room only. The pubs served up tasty selections, from Oktoberfest seasonals to IPAs, stouts, hard ciders and more … even a hard kombucha. The poets served up places in words to the applause of the crawling community.
The event wrapped up in a new event space at The Generalist for the final readings and closing ceremony. (You’re missing a jewel if you have not been to the Generalist yet … it’s quirky, crafty, and community-minded.) A special thanks to organizers and emcees Lacy Snapp, Raleigh Cody, and Emily Price … and to judges Micah McCrotty, Valencia Robin and Melissa Helton. (Special thanks to Melissa Helton, who traveled in from Kentucky to attend and gave a fabulous reading.)
This diverse and thriving community generated some seriously contagious positive energy. Borrowing from Scott Honeycutt, who opened with the evening’s first poem, it was an “Appalachian cosmic boogie.” In addition to finalists and collective regulars, Poetry Society of Tennessee (PST) members and Philosopher’s House Poetry Circle regulars showed up. I visited with friends, met critique group members’ spouses, made new friends, and experienced fantastic poetry. It was also super special to close out the Little Animals set by sharing a slice of my Florida life with a recitation of “Pining for Home.” (The poem was a 2021 Heartwood Poetry Prize semifinalist and published by Heartwood Literary Magazine.) I so appreciate the love given for my efforts at the Crawl.
Seated two seats away when the top prize was announced, I got caught up in 1st prize winner Parker’s emotional response to winning the 3rd Annual Poetry Pub Crawl. Two PST members won prizes: my fellow “Monday Evening Critique” group member Jerry Buchanan (who also recited his poem) placed second, and I placed third. It was fascinating to reflect on Jerry’s poetic performance, having seen the piece take shape from draft to winning form. Critique groups helped me shape my winning poem as well. The groups offer a supportive environment and gentle critique as you develop your poems and craft. If you’re looking for a critique group, check out PST or the Philosopher’s House Poetry Circle.)
More Highlights and Beyond the Crawl
While I enjoyed every minute of poetry, it was especially lovely to see current and former PST members Chrissie Anderson Peters, Evelyn Bales, Howard Carman, Seth Grindstaff, Rieppe Moore, Kayla Nichols and Jeff Price read their work live and in person. The day after the Pub Crawl I caught Chrissie’s reading from 23 Tales, a non-fiction book of Appalachian ghost stories from Howling Hills Publishing, founded by Terry Shaw and Brad Lifford. Brad is a fine writer who also read from 23 Tales. (Nonfiction writers, Howling Hills is now open for submissions to 24 Tales. Poets, check out PSTs festival contests and National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ annual contests.)
About Johnson City Poets Collective
Johnson City Poets Collective members share a passion for language, expression, and fellowship. The collective holds a welcoming and first-timer friendly open mic Poetry Hoot at The Down Home in downtown Johnson City on the third Wednesday of the month and an annual Poetry Pub Crawl contest. They also promote poetry and area poets at various events through the year. Keep up with their happenings on Facebook (@johnsoncitypoets) and instagram (@jcpoetscollective).