It was hard to find a seat at Luthier’s one Tuesday night in October. The place was alive with writers.
The bar was full, and beyond it, neat rows of chairs were nearly full. The atmosphere was buzzing with word jokes, spoken behind the microphone on the stage.
About 10 or more men and women of all ages and styles stood on the stage and spoke aloud what they had written. Some were published authors; others just wanted to take the stage and read for fun.
A girl from Salem read poems on the magic of sharks. An older gentleman read a section from a series he had been performing for months, and another man read a stream of consciousness poem that would have made Allen Ginsburg grin. And in between, always with a big smile on her face, Alison Murchie introduced each writer and poet.
Alison is the founder and producer of Unbuttoned, an open-mic series held once a month at Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton, Mass.
In the spring of 2012, Alison presented an idea to Easthampton City Arts+ (ECA+) about holding a monthly open-mic session for poets and writers. After some brainstorming they were able to get a spot at Luthier’s Co-op in December 2012 to host the first session of Unbuttoned.
The mission of Unbuttoned is to feature local writers of every genre. “There’s a crazy range of writers that participate,” Alison says. “People come from all over; there’s a couple of people that come from Salem and New York. There’s always a huge audience, and not all of them are writers.”
Alison has always been a writer. She was a part of the University Without Walls program at the University of Massachusetts, and she participated in many writing classes and workshops, and became a committee member of ECA+ until this past June when she became a volunteer for ECA+ due to scheduling issues.
Alison has long resume of producing multimedia events and finding out what was happening in the community. She helped start the Easthampton Book Fest this past year, served on the Artwalk Committee, worked on Cultural Chaos arts event, and Light Up the Arts, a silent auction, that happens annually.
Native to the Easthampton area, Alison spent some time in Martha’s Vineyard and Seattle before moving back in 2009. “Easthampton has grown since I came back,” Alison says. “Lots of businesses have opened up since then.”
Alison says Unbuttoned is different from other spoken word events because she pays the featured writers. “I feel strongly about rewarding people that show up to open mic consistently. Also, I don’t charge admission.”
In October, the featured writer was Gail Thomas, an academic and published poet. She read poems from several of her published books. The one that stuck out the most was her poems from “A Single Wilderness,” about the Quabbin Reserve and the community that used to live there before being flooded.
The next session of Unbuttoned will be held Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. with the featured reader as Carolyn Zaikowski, and an anniversary party will held in December.
If you wish to participate in next month’s event, come a little earlier than the stated time in order to have spot on the list. Depending on the amount of participants, the standard reading time is about five minutes.