An evening with MASSPoP

October 22, 2007

On a hot September night, ten poets gathered around the big table in the Inkberry office, beneath the giant inkberry painting, to talk about poetry in our region. The roundtable (er — square table?) was convened by Charles Coe of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as part of the MassPoP (Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project — learn more here.)

The purpose of the MassPoP is “to create resources to aid and support the Massachusetts poetry community.” Their first project is the creation of a statewide database of poets, presenters, and programs; their second project has been a series of focus groups around the state, each designed to gather information about who Massachusetts poets are, what we want and need, and what our priorities are.

We talked about our lives and work, what organizations we’re involved with, venues and reading series’es, and the state of poetry in our corner of the state. Around the table were poets who spanned the county (and beyond) — Great Barrington to North Adams (even to the hilltowns and Greenfield) and everything in between. A number of the faces there were familiar to me, but not all; a number of the folks there were longtime residents of the region, though at least one was brand-new.

For me, the most interesting part of the evening was when Charles asked us to read a list of possible MassPoP projects and rank our top five priorities. When we shared those priorities aloud, it became clear that for almost everyone in the room, poetry education topped the list: bringing poetry into the schools, introducing kids to the reading and writing of poetry, helping educators learn how to teach poetry. (For a few of us, the top priority was bringing poetry to people on the margins — in hospitals, prisons, substance abuse centers, shelters for battered women and so on.)

Good things will come out of the meeting, for sure. For one thing, MassPoP is poised to do some really good work. For another, it was sweet to see Inkberry be the meeting-place where lovers and writers of poetry from around the region could gather, share a meal and conversation, and leave fortified for the important work of making our poems come to life.


We’ve hit the bigtime!

February 1, 2006

Today came irrefutable evidence that Inkberry’s hit the bigtime: there’s a coffee drink named after us.

I hit the Cup & Saucer this morning on my way to work, meaning to get a simple cup of joe to fortify me for my day, but when I saw the Inkberry Au L(a)it on their board I had to order one.

It’s a mocha café au lait with a hint of raspberry (better that than a hint of actual inkberry, since I don’t think inkberries are edible) and a drizzle of raspberry on top. (Whipped cream optional.) It’s sweet. It’s chocolatey. It’s delicious.

And it’s yet another reason to frequent our new java joint. Where we returned for lunch — Emily, Linda, Angela and I had a lunch meeting to talk about our fifth anniversary Inkstravaganza, so naturally we headed across the street to C&S, where I took great delight in pointing out our new beverage on the chalkboard.

Thanks, Cup & Saucer. (And hey, if you’re reading this and you live locally, drop in and try one! Mmmm…delicious.)


There’s a new place in town!

January 4, 2006

Those of you who don’t live in small towns may not completely understand the excitement that prevails when a new eatery opens its doors around here. I still remember when the Thai place opened in Williamstown, the next town over from here; for weeks, any time one ran into a friend or acquaintance, the question was not “how are you?” but “have you been to the new Thai place yet?” We take our restaurants seriously here in northern Berkshire.

So believe me when I say I almost jumped for joy when I saw that Cup and Saucer had finally opened, right across the street from Inkberry central.

The place that now houses Cup and Saucer used to be the Appalachian Bean. We held a reading there last March, which was great fun. They weren’t the best joint in town, but they were convenient, and friendly, and everybody liked having them there.

Until they went out of business last summer. Brown paper immediately went up, covering the windows, along with a “Coming soon: cup and saucer!” sign. First it said “Coming soon: October,” then that was scratched out and it said “Coming soon: November,” and by December I had more-or-less given up hope that we would ever see a coffee shop in the old Bean space again.

But lo and behold, the place is open! So Jill and I took our two new interns, Elizabeth and Ann-Louise, there for a celebratory lunch.

The space is as wide-open and echo-y as ever. They spiffed up the paint, and put blue oilcloth on the tables. On the back wall, they’ve painted their logo above a small stage which currently sports several tall stools. (Could folk music and improv comedy be in our future?) And, best of all, the food is good. I had a cup of “Fire and Rice with Chicken” soup, a southwestern delight filled with sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, chicken and rice. (I wouldn’t call it “fire,” myself, but it had good flavor to it — and hey, I come from Texas, so I may have unorthodox notions about what constitutes spicy food.) Jill and I shared a roast beef sandwich, which turned out to be grilled, and quite delightful.

I’m a big fan of Brewhaha, around the corner on Marshall Street, and I intend to keep going there. I love their food, their coffee, their décor, and the people who run the place. But Brewhaha isn’t open on Wednesdays, and that’s one of my two North Adams days each week. Something tells me I’ve found my new Wednesday lunch joint.

Sitting in the Inkberry classroom, stickering calendars with address labels, I can gaze across the street into the windows of the Cup and Saucer. One of these days I might have to head over for a cup of hazelnut coffee and a slice of that chocolate lava cake. Huzzah.