On a Sunday night two weeks ago, a tawdry band of word-revelers gathered at CouchCouch, a live-work performance space on Edgewood Avenue, for an evening of poetry, performance, and PBR titled Granolapocalypse for the Fertile Galaxy. The free event, though not entirely cohesive, was a solid effort towards emboldening a young poetry community in a city where art often seems to exist in a void.
It was the first event of the year for CouchCouch, an underground performance space prone to hosting loosely organized poetry readings, film screenings, and whatever else the revolving door of residents think of. (Click here for an interview podcast at Out There Atlanta.) Like the foil-gilded washing machines in the CouchCouch kitchen, the space seems mostly held together by tape, streamers, and unicorn dreams. In case you were wondering, there are no couches at CouchCouch.
The evening was organized under the banner of OMIGODHELLOHOWAREYOU, an event series founded by Heather Buzzard, Michael Hessel-Mial, and Henry Detweiler. This was their second event, and though the night began with a worryingly long list of participants with no time limit, thankfully the lengthy schedule was pared down due to several last-minute dropouts. The Granolapocalypse featured readings by each founder, as well as by Atlanta lit-vigilante Blake Butler and poet/blogger Steve Roggenbuck, who live-streamed the event from his MacBook until the internet connection gave out.
Young artsy types clad in thrift-store finery and not-so-fine-ry crowded the floor and doorways as poets spoke prose to themes of love and death. Sexual frustrations, satanic incantations, and odes to Ginsberg ran rampant through the skunk-tinged air. The poetry was sometimes overwhelmed by the energy and ferocity of the performance—not necessarily a bad thing. Some performances were monotone, others too staged. Some were invasive, as with Blake Butler who kept encroaching on the audience, stepping on feet and splashing beer as he shouted his lines hoarsely at the delighted crowd. We were warmed and ready for the 666-obsession of Steve Roggenbuck who, thrilled by the response, exuberantly shouted, “I am darker than Blake Butler! I am truly the darkest writer! 666!” as he jumped and spun in circles.
The Granolapocalypse was a breath of fresh air compared to the contained readings of bookstores and coffee shops. CouchCouch is a tawdry yet friendly space where all are welcomed and any creativity is encouraged. In a city plagued by conservative and so-called “safe” curatorial choices, an unrestricted space like CouchCouch is like a blank canvas fished from the trash on which you can be unabashedly experimental. OMIGODHELLOHOWAREYOU is using that freedom to foster a friendly community of young poets who are mostly embryonic but with the potential to grow.
I’m encouraged by events held in spaces like CouchCouch and Luckie’s, another residential/performance space on Edgewood Avenue. It’s indicative of a community as yet existing outside the establishment but furiously driven to create art, a community present in other major cities but just emerging in Atlanta. It means that young artists and writers stick around after graduation and claim Atlanta’s rundown neighborhoods as low-rent creative centers. The only entry barrier is your level of daring, be it in art or your comfort in hanging around Edgewood late at night. I can’t imagine anything better.
Lilly Lampe is a freelance writer who holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago with a concentration in art history. She is the cofounder of Out There Atlanta, a weekly podcast covering people, places, and events throughout the city and beyond.
Disclosure: Henry Detweiler serves as the new events editor for this publication. In pursuit of featuring work that significantly contributes to cultural discourse, as well as our commitment to transparency, our policy is to disclose instead of exclude.