By Ginny Masullo
Matthew and Katy Henriksen
Photo by Max Greenstreet
August is Arkansas’s hottest month and this month’s readers, Katy and Matthew Henriksen, are most likely to be the hottest readers of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective’s 2009 line-up. They will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hammontree’s in Nightbird Books on Dickson Street.
Trying to describe the energy of the Henriksen’s might be akin to attempting to graphically depict the speed of light. Matthew is co-editor of Typo, an online poetry magazine, teaches six college level classes in writing or literature, and is co-creator, with Katy, of the Burning Chair poetry reading series. Katy works full-time at the University of Arkansas Press and runs with Matthew, out of their home, the small press Cannibal, which specializes in handmade poetry books. They have a baby due. The two parents say they’ll quickly teach her to fold pages for their press.
Katy and Matthew, who both hold master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas, met at an MFA party in Fayetteville, but the Dickson Street Bookstore is where they really connected. When Katy went to Germany, Matthew took over her job at the bookstore. When she returned they went to New York where he had a New York City Teaching Fellowship to teach seventh and eighth graders in Harlem from 2004 to 2006. That stint, which Matthew describes as probably the most fulfilling teaching he’ll ever do, was blighted by the murder of one of his students.
Katy worked at the famous Strand bookstore and later at a publishing house as a publisher’s assistant.
Typo was founded and is run by Adam Clay and Matthew. Both are UA MFA creative writing graduates. They began the online poetry magazine in Arkansas and continued it even after Adam moved to Michigan, and Matthew moved to New York.
The Burning Chair poetry readings began in Manhattan in 2005. Matthew and Katy had attended poetry readings such as the Poetry Project, KGB and the 11th Street Bar in New York. They observed that each of the readings’ participants did not attend the others’ readings. They wanted to start a series that built bridges between these poetic communities. And, they wanted an audience full of non-poets to prevent the incest that can occur in the poetry world.
Having a large pool of contributors to the now quite reputable Typo who were more than glad to travel to New York to read, Katy and Matthew found their first venue in the Cloister Cafe complete with a stained-glass backdrop. They invited poets from each of the poetry communities in New York and Burning Chair began to roar like a well-fed furnace.
Burning Chair hosted offsite readings at the 2007 and 2008 Association of Writers and Writing Programs and continues now in Fayetteville. With introductory readings at the Four Square Gallery and the Fayetteville Underground, the series will begin in earnest in 2010.
Cannibal began as a literary journal of the arts and has expanded into publishing poetry books. Matthew chooses the content and the design is done primarily by Katy. Each book is painstakingly handmade by Matthew, Katy and a bevy of friends.
Cannibal, Typo and the Burning Chair are all manifestations of the rare and generous spirits of these two writers. Both write and publish but they obviously care as much about other people’s work as they do about their own.
While in New York they pulled poets from all over the country to read in the city. Now, because of their energy and focused efforts, Fayetteville, already the cultural oasis that it is, is likely to become something of a new Mecca for poets.
Matthew has a chapbook, Is Holy, from horse less press. His poems have appeared in various journals including Absent Magazine and Agricultural Reader.
Katy writes in several genres including poetry. Her musical reviews are published in the Brooklyn Rail and Venus.
The Cannibal Books blog can be found at http://flesheatingpoems.blogspot.com.
The reading begins at 7 p.m. and is preceded and followed by an open mic with a 4-minute time limit for each reader. Sip a cold beer, have a grilled cheese at Hammontree’s and listen to this striking duo of poetic substance read from their original work.