The Poetry Brothel: NYC
The Poetry Brothel is a unique and immersive poetry event that takes poetry outside classrooms and lecture halls and places it in the lush interiors of a bordello. Based in concept on the fin-de-siecle bordellos in New Orleans and Paris, many of which functioned as safe havens for fledgling, avant-garde artists, The Poetry Brothel’s “Madame” presents a rotating cast of poets as “whores,” each operating within a carefully constructed character, who impart their work in public readings, spontaneous eruptions of poetry, and most distinctly, as purveyors of private, one-on-one poetry readings in back rooms. For a small fee, all of the “poetry whores” are available for these sequestered readings at any time during the event. Of course, any true brothel need a good cover; The Poetry Brothel’s is an immersive cabaret, offering a full bar, live jazz, burlesque dancers, painters, and fortune-tellers, with newly integrated themes, performances and installations at each event. Poets performing at the Brothel are male and female, emerging and established, local and international, and they engage audiences in an immersive experience that flows seamlessly through the Brothel’s public spaces into its private poetry readings. Central to this experience is the creation of character, which for poet and audience function as disguise and as freeing device, enabling The Poetry Brothel to be a place of uninhibited creative expression in which the poets and audience can be themselves in private. Through the vehicle of the private reading, The Poetry Brothel offers access to a part of the artistic process that was previously restricted to individuals in already intimate relationships. As site-specific interactive theater, The Poetry Brothel investigates the value of poetry in contemporary society and calls conventional tropes governing the aesthetic presentation of poets within Western culture into question. The Brothel also explores and creatively responds to the tendency of poets to systematically undervalue themselves inside the creative marketplace by providing a fun and intimate means of confirming for writers and audience alike the literal monetary value of such work. By entwining these strands in a seamless, immersive experience The Poetry Brothel serves as a deep examination of both the empowering and exploitative elements inherent in fee-based transactions for services between willing adults. The Poetry Brothel now has branches in cities all over the world, including New Orleans, Paris, Barcelona, and Bogota.
Stephanie Berger is a poet, performance artist, and event producer. She is the Executive Director of The Poetry Society of New York and co-creator of The Poetry Brothel, The New York City Poetry Festival, and The Typewriter Project. She is the author of IN THE MADAME’S HAT BOX (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and translator of THE GREY BIRD: THIRTEEN EMOJI POEMS IN TRANSLATION (Coconut Books, 2014). Stephanie’s poetry and translations have appeared in dozens of magazines and her work has been covered in dozens more. Other honors include a 2015 &NOW Writing Award and grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Fractured Atlas, and The Casement Fund. Stephanie earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Critical Studies (Film) at the University of Southern California, received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the New School, and has taught in the English Departments at Pace University and Berkeley College. She is currently producing TWO GENIUS HUSBANDS, a play by Carina Finn, at Dixon Place.
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