KGB Bar, one of the East Village staples, where many a young writer, including yours truly, has read work in progress. In the 1990s the creative writing programs--or perhaps it was just students organizing them--at NYU and Columbia used to host a joint reading fiction series that brought together what always felt like somewhat contrasting styles: technical proficiency in the case of the Columbia writers, and wilder subject matter from the NYU wordsmiths. Very likely this was just my impression and others went away with different insights, but the gatherings were always a lot of fun, and somewhat bridged the divide between the two behemoth institutions. At other KGB readings I can recall faculty members from both schools also reading, one that I particularly recall involving Randall Kenan, then at Sarah Lawrence, though he has long since departed for more southern climes.
But it had been a while since I hit KGB, so it was a pleasure to head there last night to catch three Rutgers-Newark affiliated student writers, nonfiction writer Iris Ortiz, poet Adam Bowser, and fiction writer Serena Lin, reading their work live, as part of a series Rutgers-Newark students have been running for the last few years. The bar was still so small as to make a tiny crowd feel like a packed stadium, but I found a spot, sipped a Guiness, and listened to all three writers. I should note that I currently am advising Adam and Serena, so I am quite familiar with their work, and I'd even seen Serena read during last year's student series in Newark, but it was a pleasure to hear all three of them, Iris reading from a personal memoir, Adam performing poems with a bit of local flavor and language, and Serena reading from a moving story about a character's struggles with and loss of her mother.
The warmth of the bar and the liveliness of the introductions (by a few more Rutgers-Newark students I've been lucky to work with) and readings made venturing out in the bitter New York cold a worthwhile proposition. It also made me think that I should check the bar's schedule to once again start catching more readings there if possible.