Billy Hands & David Berson have a poetry treat in store next Friday in Greenport.

If you’ve ever wished you were able to sit in on a poetry reading at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco circa 1957, the age of the beatniks, a time when poetry came down from its lofty heights and mingled with the people of the world and the word, Dave Berson and Billy Hands have a treat in store for you June 2.

Mr. Berson, a nautical writer and captain of the electric launch Glory based in Greenport, and Orient-based poet Billy Hands, who also serves as The Beacon’s poetry editor, are organizing the first annual People’s Poetry Jam from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 2 at First and South restaurant in Greenport.

“We decided that we’ve gotta get poetry out of the sacred ivory tower and out onto the streets with the hoi polloi,” said Mr. Berson.

“It is important to remember that David Berson is the mastermind here, putting his electric boat knowledge on the line, and if the event fails it is entirely his fault,” said Mr. Hands. “I will take no responsibility if it falls flat on its face, yet, if it is a success, then I will accept as much credit as possible.”

Mr. Berson said he and Mr. Hands chose poets who represent a wide range of experiences, ranging in age from 15 to 70.

Poets who are scheduled to perform include Yvonne Leiblien, Rosario Rodriguez, Hal Sifton, Matthew Daddona, Rainer Gross and Billy Hands.

Mr. Berson said he envisions the evening’s events along the lines of hip-hop poetry jams he’s attended in the past, and hopes the evening will take attendees to a state of what the ancient Greeks called ecstasy — “to stand outside oneself.”

Mr. Berson and David Nyce, a.k.a. “The Two Daves” will open up the evening with a little bit of music.

“Our job, I think, is to loosen up the crowd a bit and get them into the rhythm and blues zone, and start unleashing the id,” said Mr. Berson. “We’re hoping by the time the poets come on, the audience will be receptive.”

“I will forego the privilege of reading my long epic blank verse poems for the fate of playing Ray Charles on the guitar,” he added.

“This isn’t an ordinary poetry slam. This is quite different,” said Mr. Hands of the poetry. “There are published poets who will be waxing their fruits one at a time, perhaps two at a time and no rhyme or reason to the interjections from the band. It isn’t improv but it isn’t rehearsed. There will be an air of professionalism without a script. Food and drink will be flowing and a good time will be had by anyone who will allow their brain to expand and let loose. I, for one, will consider reading with the band wearing a Speedo, clearly and unequivocally straight-forward, with no room for a wandering brain.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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