The Monday Night Poetry Series at KGB Bar was founded 20 years ago this month. The reading series shares this milestone with the MFA in Creative Writing Program at The New School, which marks its 20th year this spring. To celebrate, Creative Writing is featuring a series of interviews and reminiscences from former hosts about their time curating the legendary series. This is the second post in a six-part series, to read Part 1 featuring Monday Night Poetry Series co-founder Star Black, please click here.

Monday Night Poetry has always maintained a close connection to The New School. MFA poetry coordinator David Lehman was a co-founder of the series, and all subsequent hosts have been affiliated with The New School MFA Poetry Program either as faculty members or alumni. Join us for a glimpse behind the scenes of this beloved and very New York hot spot for poetry.
- Laura Cronk, former Monday Night Poetry host, for The New School

(L — R) Denis Woychuk, Jason Shinder and David Lehman, from The KGB Bar Book of Poems, HarperCollins Publishers, 2000. Photo by Star Black.

(L — R) Denis Woychuk, Jason Shinder and David Lehman, from The KGB Bar Book of Poems, HarperCollins Publishers, 2000. Photo by Star Black.

David Lehman is is a New York based poet with a dazzling array of accomplishments. He has published eighteen books of poetry and criticism, including Poems in the Manner Of (to be released March 7 from Scribner) and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship among other honors. He is the series editor for The Best American Poetry and edited the Oxford Book of American Poetry. He teaches in the graduate writing program at The New School.

 

David Lehman: Star Black made the series happen. She had met Denis Woychuk, who owns the KGB Bar, and he asked her to direct a Monday night poetry reading series. This was back in December 1996. Star called me and said she would do it if I agreed to be her co-director. I said yes.

With poetry you are always surprised when something succeeds. Our series took off. I think we were enjoying ourselves too much to notice the acclaim. But suddenly the KGB Bar housed the hottest reading series in town. The place — its red decor, its curious history, and its location on Fourth Street near Second Avenue — was part of the charm. No one got paid, but the bar was liberal when it came to comping readers on drinks. The bartenders were friendly. And Star and I knew a lot of serious poets across the spectrum and we were committed to the idea that all deserved a hearing. In our first couple of years we got John Ashbery, Mark Bibbins, Robert Bly, Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, Elaine Equi, Richard Howard, Marie Howe, Carolyn Kizer, Philip Levine, Honor Moore, Sharon Olds, Ron Padgett, Katha Pollitt, Charles Simic,Gerald Stern, Mark Strand, James Tate, Paul Violi, Susan Wheeler, Dara Wier, C. K. Williams, C. D. Wright,and Charles Wright and many others to read for us... To continue reading, please click here.

Coming up next for the KGB Bar Monday Night Poetry Series:
Featuring: David Lehman and Katha Politt
KGB Bar | 85 E 4th St, NYC
March 6, 2017, 7:00 pm

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Founded in Greenwich Village in 1931, Creative Writing at The New School continues to promote, engender, and shape innovative literature.