Could Dylan Thomas, boisterous Welsh poet and advocate of public readings, have predicted today's open-mike nights? Siamese twins reciting rhymed quatrains in unison; anemic beat poets accompanied by ferrets and inbred Chinese dogs; the drunk, the infirm, and, of course, the eighteen-year-old who must read the painful rendering of his or her first sexual experience. The Luna Star Café certainly has seen its share of the absurd (most recently, a persona poem of Stalin as a bulimic), but lately its stage has given way to something more substantial.
Around five years ago, local poet Jay Snodgrass began an open mike at the café mainly for students in local MFA programs and anyone else who was game. "It was a great place for writers from FIU to read work, but that was basically all that was happening -- we were reading to each other," explains Mark Martin, a graduate of FIU's MFA program. To remedy that situation and appeal to a more eclectic crowd, Martin enlisted fiction writer Sarah Dodds and created the Luna Star Reading Series in April 2002.
"There's already an audience for the established writers," says Martin. "We want to focus on up-and-coming writers." After all, what does happen during that brief period between earning an MFA in creative writing and winning a genius grant? More than a little hunger, that's for sure. So it's good that this Sixties-style coffeehouse boasts an affordable menu of imported beers and gourmet coffee drinks, hearty sandwiches, designer pizzas, and several variations of baked Brie. Food for thought and action.