It's a poetry slam, minus the rhymes or affectations, with maybe some wine and beer in spirit thrown in.
On the first Friday of each month at 8 p.m. at the Out of the Blue Gallery (106 Prospect St. in Central Square), author Timothy Gager orchestrates the Dire Reader, one long and laid-back evening of prose. With no holds barred, it's a verbal jamboree for those enamored of the word. Breaking forces with the traditional five-minute time limit for open mike readings, Gager's are 15, with the open mike going for 60. The format also includes two feature authors, who command the podium for 30 minutes each. Here's how it works: "Each reader has up to 15 minutes of open time," Gager explained, "but they don't have to use all of it if they don't need it. This allows for more time for others. There will be sixty minutes of open mic followed by the first feature. There will then be another 30 minutes of open time, with the second feature closing out the evening."
The series began at the Cantab Lounge two years ago before becoming, in Gager's words, "the orphan stepchild of the Out of the Blue." Gager, who has penned three books, Twenty-Six Pack, The Damned Middle, Life in a Drunken Slumber, all published by Dead End Street, arrived at the series' moniker with friend and former co-host John Bailey. Both believed that there was a "dire" need for a regular event which would showcase longer-than-average reads. The concept appears to have caught on, with 40-50 attendants per evening. "I feel the event incorporates the national, local and Cambridge communities," said Gager. "Massachusetts has the largest population of writers than in any other state which makes an event like this unique." He cautioned that the practices of sitting back, being stiff, or going to the bathroom during the reader etc. are discouraged.
Past Dire Features have included Andrew K. Stone, author of Disappearing into View and All Flowers Die, both published independently by So There Books. He applauded the mixing and matching of featured readers, which can include an established and much-published author alongside a freshman at college reading from their journal. This pairing can thus result in a great and varied reading and listening opportunity for both the novice writer and the audience.
The Nov. 1 Dire featured Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam and Cambridge author Michael Lee. On Dec. 6, Steve Almond, author of 2002's "My Life in Heavy Metal," published by Grove Press, and Cammie McGovern will read. Jan. 3 will feature noted author Sue Miller and Joanna Skouras, and on Feb. 7, Ibbetson St. Press publisher Doug Holder and Barbara Kent Lawrence will have the longer honors. Gager is flexible as to reader selection; he has no rules for format, genre, politics or level of accomplishment. His loose and unpredictable framework results in an enjoyable surprise for each audience. Interested scribes are welcome to submit work. "The Dire Reader," said Gager, "welcomes longer works of fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, group readings of screenplays, and other forms of writing." Gager's Twenty-Six Pack is available at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-.
Sign up for The Dire Reader is 7:30 p.m. for the open reading, which begins at 8 p.m. A four dollar donation is suggested. For information, contact [email protected], or visit http://www.direreader.com.