A couple of weeks ago, one of the larger poetry communities online had a startling turn of events with a surprising death and an exciting birth. Unexpectedly, people within the team of One Stop Poetry (2011 Shorty award) were resigning at an alarming rate. There was no talk about replacing the team. The poetry group was ending. Then word began spreading of a new group being formed with community in mind. The same week One Stop Poetry prepared for its last night dVerse Poets Pub had their debut with their OpenLinkNight. Their event was very similar to One Stop’s One Shot Wednesday. A coincidence, no, a smart move on behalf of dVerse. One Shot Wednesday was One Stop’s most popular event. In edition, dVerse Poets Pub was created and founded by two of the former team of One Stop, Brian Miller and Claudia Schoenfeld.
That brings me to the Up Close and my chat with Brian Miller. Initially, I asked if I could interview him about the creation of One Stop Poetry. Well, that idea grew with the events that transpired before our first Skype call into a closer look at both poetry groups. Brian happens to be the one person that was involved in the creation of One Stop Poetry and dVerse Poets Pub. I conducted two interviews with Brian via Skype. I recorded our conversations and then transcribed his words to share with all of you.
River: Do you remember the moment the idea of One Stop Poetry was born?
Brian: It started in email to be honest with you. Moon emailed me. We were part of another poetry mime at the time but we weren’t really having fun with it. Leslie asked me “What do you think about this” and I said, “Let me think about it.” In a couple days she said, “Hey I talked to this other guy Pete Marshall and he’s interested.” So I said, “Ok let’s do this.” We had our first Skype session me, Pete, and Leslie while I was sitting in a library between counseling kids. It was originally called One Shot Poetry. I threw the name out then Pete decided he liked One Stop better so we went with that and kept the One Shot for Wednesdays. It was then we realized we had to bring at least one other person on board. That was Dustus. The four of us launched without really even thinking about what we were doing other then we wanted to lift poetry up. Mine was the first post then Pete posted literally 30 minutes of me posting. We doubled up on the same day. We kind of stumbled forward. The first couple of months we spent a lot of time spotlighting people. We would do One Shot Wednesday and have five spotlights during the week for two weeks of existence we were like we have to stop spotlighting people or we are going to run out of people really fast. Out of that came One Shoot Sunday, it was much later we added form for Monday. Starting One Stop was really four people that wanted to lift poetry up that did not know what they were doing and jumped in headfirst. We were passionate about it and just went for it.
River: It is my understanding; you started One Stop over a year ago to bring poets together all over the world. Do you feel that has been achieved?
Brian: We were running 200 poets a week at One Shot on our year mark. I would say it really accomplished bringing poets together. I think it created a great community of people with various interests from around the world. It wasn’t like we were centered in one area. I have met some amazing people through there. I would say it has…I think it has elevated poetry and brought together poets from all over.
River: Last week, you and many others resigned from One Stop. I know better than to ask for details of how it transpired; however, I am wondering if part of it was to get out while it was on a high before it dipped low in popularity?
Brian: It’s a great after thought. We came off a Shorty win and running 200 people on Wednesday. We reached a point where a couple of people were ready to make changes. I love all of the original four and all of our staff that we had. I think we all have bright futures. Leslie has some ideas, Pete and Dustus were ready to switch gears. The way Leslie described it I thought was good. One Shot was the rocket booster to get us into orbit. I don’t want that to sound like it belittles people that were part of One Stop. I think we provided a jump off point for them. Then with d’Verse and what Leslie is going to be starting, we have provided them with other alternatives with One Stop leaving.
River: This week is the Pub’s Grand Opening. It is beginning with OpenLink Night that sounds a lot like One Shot Wednesday. Are there other similarities to One Stop? What are the differences between the two?
Brian: I think at One Stop we proved many things that can work so we didn’t go far field other than we limited the schedule. Instead of trying to go 7 days a week, we are going three. That way we can have three quality days. We have a much larger team at d’Verse with a smaller schedule. What that allows is no one should burn out at dVerse. We have rotating teams on hosting the link night, we have rotating teams on poetics our prompt night which is Saturday evenings going into Sunday. So realistically, someone will be posting once a month. It allows room for people to breathe a little bit and it doesn’t have the pressure for us to produce daily like we did at One Stop. Something else that’s very different is after the first couple months we want to open it up on those free days to allow people to give input and if they want to own a day, they can pitch an idea to us that we will consider for the free days. Something that they want to try out. If we like the idea, we will give them a 30-day slot. Let’s say a Tuesday for 30 days to prove it. So, we might have some special feature a couple months in trying some different things out giving some ownership back to the community on what they see.
River: How did the idea or theme of a pub come to be for dVerse?
Brian: This idea never happened until after I left One Stop. I left and told the fore fathers I’m done here but I am going to open something else up on my own and got their blessing. Actually if you look at the opening night all three of the other founders stopped in and gave their blessing. I knew within days of leaving I was going to start something new. It was probably two days later Claudia said she was leaving One Stop as well. When she did that I sent here an email, “here’s my idea.” It was originally called dVerse Poets Cafe. Claudia was the one that suggested we name it a pub and I actually took a day because, here was my concern, I have many personal readers that are AA so I wanted to be respectful of them too. So I took a day and even asked a couple of them, “Ok if I start something named a pub and we serve poetry is it going to be OK?” Of course, they were “Yeah you’ll be fine.” We aren’t promoting drinking that’s just our environment and we are all welcome to drink words. I will say after the flurry of everyone linking in I think several of us had poetry hangovers. We were figuring we would start somewhere in the 70’s or 80’s. There were a full 164 and if you look at them over half of them are people we were not reaching at One Stop. It’s not like we took the old crowd and brought them over there is a whole bunch of new people. Our goal was not to be the replacement for One Stop. We want to stand alone. That was pleasing to me.
River: How many people are on the team?
Brian: We have a team of ten. Luke and Gay have their own day. Luke does crit and then Gay will do form teaching. Then we have three people hosting with me and Claudia on the other two nights. Tuesday night on OpenLinkNight there is Natasha Head, Joe Hesch, and Joy Jones. Then Saturday night is Poetics with Sheila Moore, Victoria, and Mark Kerstetter. Yeah, because of the rotation we would only have to do it once every five weeks. Don’t want to be overworked but we both like to have our hands in things and play around.
River: Is there guests too? I saw Luke had Beth this week.
Brian: Well, Luke and Gay both are going to incorporate different guests. We definitely want to get people from the community and give them some ownership. It’s definitely not about us.
River: Do all three nights start at the same time?
Brian: Yeah, they all start atthree pm EST and the link doesn’t close untilmidnight the next night. It gives about 33 hours for each of the things weekly. What we figure is since half our team is inEurope it gives them time to get into OpenLinkNight. It’s9 pm when we open for Claudia, its3 pm for me. We are capturing a majority of our audience in theUS andEurope. The majority of our hits come from within those continents. Now I guess that makes it the middle of the night for some. A couple of them said, hey I showed up at 3 in the morning for me. I was like there’s never going to be a time when we are going to get everybody.
River: How did the poetry community react to the events themselves and the week in a whole through comments and personal messages?
Brian: They came and linked up opening night but we had over 160 comments. There is a lot of communication going on in a lot of different forms on Facebook, Twitter, or just on the webpage. I think the reaction has been really good. I think we are touching on some new things like crit. That’s a new element. I think so far it’s been good and will continue to get better while we try new things, new and different ways to prompt poetry.
~Thank You Brian for such an awesome interview. You Rock! smiles!