'Inspired Word' Performance Series Returns to Queens With Weekly Open Mic

By Jeanmarie Evelly on April 10, 2014 2:26pm 

 Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn and mother Bonnie Murray Tamblyn performing at an Inspired Word event.
Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn and mother Bonnie Murray Tamblyn performing at an Inspired Word event.
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Jay Franco

LONG ISLAND CITY — A popular open mic series that got its start in Queens five years ago will be returning to the borough next month.

The Inspired Word, a live performance series that showcases poets, musicians, comedians and other artists at events throughout Manhattan, will be launching a new weekly open mic at eco-friendly cafe COFFEED on Northern Boulevard and 38th Street in Long Island City next month.

"I'm excited to be coming back to Queens," said Mike Geffner, who founded the series. "It's something I've been trying to do for years."

Geffner, 57, a former journalist and Village Voice columnist, started the series in 2009 by "happenstance," he says, after the owner of a restaurant he frequented down the block from his Forest Hills home asked him to help start a weekly poetry reading.

"It started out very small," he said, adding that the first event — which took place during a snowstorm — drew only nine or 10 people.

But the series grew in popularity over the next several months, until the Forest Hills eatery closed and Geffner was forced to find a new venue.

"I looked in Queens, but couldn't find an appropriate home for it," he said. He eventually landed at arts venue (Le) Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village and restarted the series in January 2010.

Today, The Inspired Word hosts more than a dozen shows a month at venues like (Le) Poisson Rouge, Tammany Hall and Funkadelic Studios, and has expanded from a spoken word series to include musicians, comedians and other live performance artists.

Past performers have included actress and poet Amber Tamblyn, comedian John Fugelsang and actor Taylor Negron, among others.

The tenor of every event varies depending on the artists who show up to perform, Geffner said.

"You never know — it's like a box of chocolates," he said. "That's the beauty of live art."

Geffner said COFFEED — which emphasizes the use of locally sourced ingredients and donates parts of its proceeds to local charities — was a fitting venue for The Inspired Word.

"I think COFFEED is the perfect place," he said. "Their mission is very similar to our mission, which is community."

The weekly open mic series will take place at the cafe every Wednesday, and will showcase a different Queens performer as a "featured artist" twice a month.

"We're really going to concentrate on celebrating Queens artists," Geffner said. "We've been able to build a village in Manhattan and people talk about our series like it's a family, and I think that's what I'm trying to do here."

The Inspired Word open mic at COFFEED will be held every Wednesday beginning May 7 at 7 p.m. at 37-18 Northern Blvd. The cover is $7, which allows the patron to bring a friend for free. Tickets and additional information can be found here.

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