When I was an undergrad in Athens, GA, the 40-Watt Club was the magnet that drew musicians and poets together. It was our shared space, our common ground, named after the bare bulb that lit the stage. It was where we came to listen and be listened to — where REM, Guadalcanal Diary, Love Tractor, and others found their first fans. While the address changed over time, it was always the same space — what we writers lovingly refer to as a hole in the wall. Why such places appeal to some of us, and not to others, I don’t know. It has something to do with being the type of place that is all rough draft, and up to the community that inhabits it to define. Such is The Basement in downtown Noho, home of Writers Night Out every first Tuesday of the month.
Writers Night Out got its start at the old Elevens on Pleasant Street. When the Elevens closed, it brought us to our current location, and to a familiar, yet more intimate space. It has that same vibe, you know, where it’s just easier to be a stranger if that’s who you want to be, and easier to get to know people when you feel like it. You’re welcome to participate or not, share a table or not, and Naan, our barkeep, is as happy serving whiskey as he is club soda and lime.
Writers Night Out was my first experience returning to a community of writers after an absence of years. I’m glad the lights were low. I’m glad there were dark edges and corners I could retreat to after five minutes at the mic. It was like dipping my toe in the water, pulling back, till gradually I was in all the way. It was my entry point, my door, the hole in the wall I crawled through to find a community on the other side. I don’t think I’m the only one who blesses such places, and the people one finds there.
Come as you are. Create what you want. Have a sip and a listen. Talk back. Take part. See you next month!
Writers Night Out was founded by Jacqueline Sheehan and is a monthly salon and open mic with a featured reader. It is held on the first Tuesday of every month from 7 – 9:00pm. Beth Filson is the MC. The Basement is located next to the Northampton Police Station on Center Street, entrance in the back of the building.