Alex Noghaven and Atena Sherry can barely contain their excitement about the outlook of Miami’s writing scene. They talk in caffeinated bursts, speaking for and maneuvering around each other in conversation to fawn about the blooming literary landscape.
“Miami is just kind of burgeoning with this stuff,” says Noghaven, 25. “Everyone is kind of starting up and getting stuff out there, and suddenly now there’s a response to it. I grew up here, and I knew Books & Books, and that was pretty much it, and then —"
“We’ve both participated in other literary things,” Sherry, 21, breaks in. “And it’s nice 'cause... now you can get this stuff out there and there’s a response to it.”
This Wednesday, Noghaven and Sherry will launch the city’s newest reading series, Rüf Reads, atop the Color House print shop in the Buena Vista neighborhood. But the two friends have been taking their literary fates into their own hands for some time.
“We’ve both self-published our work. For me, it’s been three poetry collections,” says Sherry, who rents a studio space in the building. “And Alex has self-published how many short-story collections?” she stage-whispers to her partner.
“Three or four,” Noghaven replies insouciantly and then, after a beat, as if she’d forgotten until now: “which will all be up [for sale]. We’re having a zine shop as well.”
Rüf Reads won't be the first literary event the duo has produced. “Before this,” Noghaven recalls, “we had an art collective, and we did an open mike in South Miami, so we’re just taking a step up from that.” The open-mike format, she explains, gives presenters only a few minutes to read a single piece. Longer work was going underrepresented, and even writers of short-form were having a hard time getting their voices heard with single-poem limits at readings.
“We decided to create a safe space for writers to have a substantial amount of time to share their work,” Sherry says, “enough time to read several poems or a full short story.
“I’ve always been a writer,” she continues, “but I got into sharing through spoken-word poetry, and I guess the root of this event was that I realized there are a lot of outlets for people who want to do spoken word in Miami, but there aren’t necessarily so many outlets for people who are really just, like, pen-to-paper writers.”
That stage-versus-page dichotomy is something that, in many places, you’d hear slam poets decrying. But in a city whose hip-hop credentials have long outpaced the production of its academic-literary complex, it’s appropriate that spoken word would have the richer tradition. Noghaven and Sherry, for their part, say the series was conceived not to eschew slam poetry, but to merely add other readers into the mix.
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“We want to create a space that welcomes any type [of writing],” Sherry says, “whether you’re a spoken-word artist, whether you’re a short-story writer, whether you’re someone who writes poems that aren’t necessarily for performance.”
The first event will feature seven readers, including Leidy Fuentes and Manny Lacayo, and will be bookended by performances by indie musician Womanmay.
Authors who’d like to be considered for future readings or have their zines sold in the shop can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rüf Reads runs from 8 to 11 p.m. this Wednesday, July 27, at 5110 NW Second Ave., Miami. Visit facebook.com/rufreads. $5 suggested donation.