Part II: The Evolution of So-and-So

Read Part one here: So-and-So, The Inception of a Reading Series

GR: Of Course, I have to ask, why the name So-and-So?

So-and-So reader, Chris Vitiello

The name was kind of a tongue in cheek way to emphasize the no-name quality of the series at first. I don't want to make it sound like there weren't readings in Boston...there where. But they were more of the Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Frank Bidart variety rather than the early-career/not famous variety. I guess the name sort of thumbed its nose at the academic-centered Boston aesthetic. Of course, there actually turned out to be several other series not unlike So-and-So in Boston/Cambridge, but luckily I had never run across them, for whatever reason. If I had, I probably wouldn't have started So-and-So. And then once So-and-So got up and running, and I became more aware of the landscape, I was able to collaborate with those other series curators, which was great.

Another, unrelated, reason I went with the name So-and-So has to do with my Wallace Stevens obsession. He has a poem called “So and So Reclining on Her Couch.” One of the lines is "so much to learn," which also speaks to the early-career focus of the reading least in the beginning.

GR: What’s your favorite perk about being a part of So-and-So?

A So-and-So reading in Raleigh

A So-and-So reading in Raleigh

CT: I often think about the seemingly primal pleasure of being read to. Essentially, I get to invite people from all over the country to read to me. That seems insane. But it's wonderful. And of course, the goal is to provide the Raleigh-Durham community with an opportunity to hear some real, live, working poets read their work. People are so generous with their time, and resources, and work. And besides the readings and the poetry, many of these folks crash on my couch, or at least go out to dinner and grab drinks. It's been wonderful to meet so many people and hear their stories and how poetry plays a role in them. Not to mention I get exposed to so many great journals and presses that they have started, or where they are being published. We were revamping the So-and-So site recently, and I was in awe of the number of links we've accumulated, the number of recordings--both video and audio--we've accumulated. It's really a wonderful resource for visitors to the site, but for me it's like the world's coolest photo album of the last eight years of my life.

You also are part of the Birds, LLC enterprise. How did that collaboration happen? 

Collections of poetry published by Birds LLC

Collections of poetry published by Birds LLC

I combined So-and-So with Birds, LLC out of the selfish need to consolidate my life.  I asked the other guys at Birds, LLC if I could fold in So-and-So, and they agreed. All of them were a big part of the series as it got started, and I think it is a natural progression. Now, when someone reads for So-and-So and I love their work even more than I already had, I publish it in So-and-So Magazine. Then, if the guys read it and love it, we might solicit a sample for the press, and who knows...we might have a great new book to put out. Also, each time we have a reading at So-and-So, or put out an issue, it drives a bit of internet traffic to the Birds, LLC site, which is a win-win for all of us.

What are the biggest challenges So-and-So faces?

The biggest challenge I face is audience. In a way, the audience here in Raleigh is incredible. While there are a couple exceptions, there tends to be, on average, a crowd of about 25 people at each event. But unlike many other reading series, I would say the majority of my audiences are non-poets...people from the community who are interested in hearing poetry and/or supporting the arts in general. In that way, it is really don't get that everywhere. However, the crowd is constantly morphing. Very rarely do the same 10-15 people attend. When your audience is primarily other poets, one benefit is that you can count on a core dozen or so people attending. Every time there's a reading I get extremely nervous that I'm going to walk up the stairs with the poets and no one is there.

For Birds, LLC, the challenge is money. We'd love to put out more than two books a year, but so far we can only swing two. There are so many good books that we won't be able to publish as a makes me a little sad. The good thing is that these books will eventually get published, and hopefully by a press we love and respect and who will treat the author and the book with care.

Time is another big one. The older we get, the more life, marriages, divorces, moves, jobs, layoffs, houses, apartments, health, etc. So even with five editors, it's not easy to stay on schedule.

What’s in store for So-and-So and Birds, LLC’s future?

I just hope people keep coming to Raleigh to read and that continues to slowly but surely build a community here around great poets, journals, and presses. And as I accumulate wonderful poems from these poets, I'll periodically put out an issue of the journal.

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The next two books For Birds, LLC are in the works...Ana Bozicevic's Rise in The Fall and Sampson Starkweather's The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. Ana's book is her second, and she is simply one of my favorite living poets (hear her read her poem “About Nietzsche” below). One time she and I were talking...this is probably six years ago or something...and she was telling me about her favorite poets and it was the first time I ever thought about a contemporary, "You're BETTER than they are!" It was actually a pretty important revelation for me. And Sam's book is simply going to be epic. Four. Actual. Books. Almost 300 pages. He's simply the most athletic poet I've ever met/read...literally and figuratively. It's such a pleasure to be able to put these two books out into the world.