Spider Mother are Putting the Punk Back in Poetry

By: Jasmine Wallis

In the ultra-capitalist, ever-moving Manhattan, it sometimes feels like business rules all. But tucked away under the neon fast food signs and boutique stores in downtown New York City, the 8-Ball Community space got together on a Thursday night for their first Spider Mother reading and performance series. Our reporter Jasmine Wallis was somewhere in the eclectic crowd.

Because it’s the 21st century, I first found out about the event via my Instagram DM’s. The digital flyer told me that it was a new reading and performance series, located on Canal Street and not much else. So, on a freezing January night my friends and I caught the subway to see what it was all about.

As we got off the busy main street, the warmth of the space made us feel welcome already. Inside the 8-Ball HQ there was barely any light, save for a spotlight that beamed down onto where the performers would speak. Red wine flowed, and friends greeted each other, embracing closely and wishing one another a happy new year. The place was packed to the rafters and there weren’t enough chairs to go around but a friendly atmosphere filled the room as New York artist and drag queen, JAZZMINT, began to host the evening.

First up was artist Elyse Johnson who warmed up the crowd with a ‘primal scream’ i.e. screaming in unison at the top of our lungs, because “it’s January”. Then followed an array of poets and artists whose topics ranged from mental health, horoscopes, sex, Twin Peaks, President Trump, and the threat of global warming. One of the performers was Nicola Maye, a 25-year old writer who works in a bookstore in New York City. She performed three poems, one about Blair Waldorf, a character from the TV show Gossip Girl, which Nicola describes as an “American Masterpiece”. “This is my first time [reading] here but it just seems like a really cool, eclectic crowd, everyone’s really friendly and it’s a great turn out.”

 The event was organised by Mika Baron Nesher, a 27-year-old woman from Jerusalem, who is studying writing at The New School in the city. She began Spider Mother as a way to bring artists into an open community space, away from the corporate, privatised art world that New York is known for. “There’s a lot of professionalism in New York where everything has to be polished but that’s not what the creative process is like,” Mika says.  “I just wanted to create a platform where people can be vulnerable and supportive of each other and put the punk back in it [poetry].”

Mika says she curated the event by simply reaching out “to everyone who was down to try something scary”. And for every shaking paper under the spotlight and vulnerable voice behind the microphone, it felt like Mika’s vision of an open night of unapologetic artists and close-knit community came to fruition.