You Can’t Kill a Poet is a Philadelphia-based reading series for LGBTQ readers which just celebrated its 5th anniversary! The series is held at different locations throughout the city, including Tattooed Mom, South Philadelphia Library, and formerly The Wooden Shoe.
From attending You Can’t Kill a Poet, I can attest to the welcoming and supportive space it creates. I worked with the founder of the series, Boston Gordon, to bring this reading series to the Free Library for all-ages iterations of this wonderful event. After the last reading, I had the chance to speak with Boston.
What is "You Can’t Kill a Poet"?
You Can't Kill a Poet is an ongoing reading series that exclusively features the voices of queer and/or transgender identified writers. We are welcoming and inclusive of all on the LGBTQ spectrum. The reading exists on the basis that queer spaces are still needed in order to give LGBTQ folks room to be themselves, share in what makes us unique as a community, and bring diverse voices together without the weight of cis and hetero normative expectations.
Why did you start this reading series? What type of space are you trying to cultivate?
I started the series five years ago when I had been living in Philadelphia for about a year and a half. I was most of the way through my low-residency MFA program and was feeling a space that needed to be filled in my own life. I just wanted to take the feeling I had in queer space and translate it to the writing world for my own enjoyment. From there I saw that other queer and trans folks seemed to really thrive with a reading series all their own. I have always believed in the importance of LGBTQ spaces and it translated immediately to this series.
I want readers to feel like they come free of expectation, of judgment, of othering. I don't want them to feel like they are in a room full of people who they have to explain queer or trans 101 to. I don't want my readers to feel like tokens, but celebrated members within their community, worthy of having their stories heard.
What has been the response to the series?
It's been amazing to say the least. I am thrilled with the feedback I get. I didn't create this community, but I love being a part of it. To have readers and audience members come back consistently, tell their friends, and share how important this space is really means the world to me.
What made you decide to partner with the library? What makes poetry readings at the library different than your other readings?
As an avid library patron, I am already well aware of the library's role in communities. I appreciate when libraries bring the needs of the community they serve to the forefront of the programming they provide. I had gotten feedback that some members of my own community were frustrated that readings were being held in 21+ spaces. I also personally feel frustrated that almost all free or low-cost spaces for public performance are not handicapped accessible. This is a consistent problem for literary events in Philadelphia. I wanted to at least be able to offer a couple readings a year that would address these needs. The library provides space for the community that is inclusive and reaches a broader audience in the city.
How can someone get involved?
You can contact me via our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YCKAP or email me personally. I am always happy to chat with interested folks and get them coming to and reading at future events. There is no prerequisite other than being a part of the LGBTQ community and wanting to share your own work.
The next You Can’t Kill a Poet event will be held at South Philadelphia Library on Wednesday, June 26 at 6:00 p.m. All are welcome!