Buttons was featured. It was a highly successful reading followed by a question-and-answer period with such interesting questions as: "I noticed that everyone seems so joyful—does this come from Stein's work or from the connection to this project?" That led to a range of commentary from the participants who sometimes answered that the joy was found in Stein's work or in their own, but also from the project itself that brought these poets together: Martha Sanchez-Lowery, Henry Crawford, Don Illich, and Hiram Larew.
What was remarkable was that Karren Alenier did not attend the reading.
She was home nursing a case of Covid. Although the program was not
broadcast on Zoom, it was scripted and recorded.
This brings up the state of poetry readings in today's post-Covid world.
Ever since the Covid shutdown, poetry programs have increasingly found
their way online. This has increased the audiences for poetry.
So what makes a poetry reading successful? An audience. Generally
speaking an audience of 20 people is considered a respectable number
attending a poetry reading. The Arts Club reading had close to 30 people.
Also were any books sold? At the Arts Club, four books were sold and
another person who could not make the reading emailed that he wanted to
buy a book. Were questions asked? Did people linger after the reading to
either look at the book or books for sale and to take the opportunity to talk
to each other?
Steiny also organized and participated in another in-person reading on
July 9, 2023, at a funky nonprofit bookstore in the Washington, DC suburbs
. This time there were 15 people in the bookstore audience and 31 online
through Zoom. Wonderful questions were asked and answered. For
example, how to start reading Stein and who else writes in the style of
Stein. One book was sold.
Most of the time, Zoom readings do not sell books. In the United States,
Steiny believes that buying books of poetry has always been an impulse
purchase. The question is how do you attract an audience likely to buy a
book of poetry? One sure fire method is to have a private book party.
In May 2023, a friend held a book party for Steiny where about 30 people
attended. A short reading ensued but mostly it was a literary cocktail party
where people munched on savory treats and spoke enthusiastically to one
another. Twelve copies of From the Belly were sold as well as five copies of
Steiny's 2021 book how we hold on.
Steiny has always said that building an audience for poetry is like forming a
stalactite—one drop at a time.