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The Midwest Small Press Festival celebrates the handmade, among other delightful things.

Midwest Small Press Festival celebrates writing, bookmaking

The first Midwest Small Press Festival is scheduled to take place at a handful of venues in the Riverwest neighborhood from Friday-Sunday, June 1-3. The festival kicks off Friday night with a reception and numerous readings at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St.

"The festival is a unique event that celebrates lit in the Midwest, small presses and gets to show off Milwaukee," says Rob Baumann, marketing director for Woodland Pattern.

Small presses from around Milwaukee are hosting the festival and each will have a presence at the book fair, which is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Polish Falcon's Nest, 801 E. Clarke St.

Presses from West Allis and Madison will also have tables at the book fair. States represented by other presses include Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and New York.

"The idea behind the festival is to get people together in one spot, exchange creative energies, celebrate hand-made things. These alternative ways of creating are timeless and should be celebrated, not just once, but continuously," says Chelsea Tadeyeske, a poet and one of the festival's organizers.

Workshops about alternative creation are being held in concert with the book fair, kitty-corner to the Falcon Nest at Cream City Collectives, 732 E. Clarke St. The workshops are about bookbinding and manuscript-making and run Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; these are followed by poetry readings in the Collectives space, which go until 5 p.m.

The festival continues into Saturday evening with events at three venues. The first two events, poetry readings, run somewhat simultaneously. Jackpot Gallery, 825 E. Center St., hosts readings from 6 to 10 p.m. and Foxglove Gallery, 826 E. Locust St., from 7 to 11 p.m.

An after party will be held at the Ponalo house, at Booth and Clarke Streets (follow other festival attendees).

Readings at Jackpot begin with work by Miekal And from West Lima, Wis. (one of those really green parts of the state) until 7 p.m., followed by the latest Burdock release which includes readings by Angela Trudell Vasquez, UW-Milwaukee's Jim Chapson and Cynthia Spencer, who is another festival organizer.

While the readings at Jackpot are concluding with "New Rain Splendor" (the names of three presses combine to make up the title), the Switchback Books "Power Hour" is getting underway over at Foxglove.

Switchback Books is a feminist press specializing in poetry by women and its definition of women includes "transsexual, transgender, genderqueer and female-identified individuals." Readings from the press' offerings during power hour will be done by festival organizers Spencer and Tadeyeske, as well as UWM's Lindsay Daigle and Susan Firer, among others.

Spencer and Tadeyeske share a house they call "the laundry chute" with festival organizer Edwin Perry.

"We've all had a chance to travel as poets, so when Edwin proposed the idea to have the festival, to celebrate the ingenuity of poets in the Midwest and make everyone aware of all the great things we have going on, we were immediately on board," says Tadeyeske.

As a collective of "writers, readers and bookmakers," the three housemates started planning the festival in late January. From the beginning, the organizers knew they wanted the festival to continue after this one. They hope a second annual Midwest Small Press Festival will take place in another city next year; any inspiration, and planning, for that will likely come out of this first one.

Perry runs Plumberries Press, which he started in Chicago. Plumberries has a chapbook series and two journals, "Drupe Fruits" and "Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock." Both specialize in "strange writings," from the "surreal and wonderfully abstracted" to "surrealism, symbolism and abstraction of an emotive or organic nature."

"Surrealism in the Midwest" is a panel running opening night at Woodland Pattern, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Midwestern writers will read from the anthology "New Stories from the Midwest" and discuss the place of surrealism in their work.

Preceding the surrealism panel at Woodland Pattern are readers from Iowa City's Strange Cage poetry press.

Following the events at Woodland Pattern on opening night is "A / V Literary Theatrics" at The Nut Factory, 3720 N. Fratney St., from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Local poet and Salacious Banter poetry reading series co-founder Mike Hauser will perform, followed by Miss Nico Bennett, a member of the collective which runs the Queer Zine Archive Project.

Bennett, according to the festival schedule, "will be posing as a high school teacher hosting a group of poets reading erotica, melodrama and / or humor against the backdrop of an awkwardly tense sock hop."

The festival concludes Sunday with a brunch spelling bee and literary trivia at Riverwest Public House Co-op, 815 E. Locust St.


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