We would typically kick off a story about a recurring event in town with a few words about how it’s becoming so popular.
But the Second Saturdays poetry and open mic night at Cyrus Chai & Coffee Company in Bay Shore was popular from Day 1, according to the hosts and curators, Matt Pasca and Terri Muuss, a local literary power couple.
The two educators attribute the quick success, in part, to their long-held connections in the writing and poetry scenes on Long Island and New York City, which allows them to feature very talented poets of different backgrounds.
“Every day there’s a poetry event somewhere,” Muuss said, “but usually what happens is, whoever’s running it, the poetry sounds like theirs; the people look like them. And that’s all fine, but it becomes very insular.”
Second Saturdays is just the opposite.
Even though they do pack out the coffeeshop at 1 Railroad Plaza with anywhere from 40 to 60-plus people, Muuss and Pasca say even the faces in the crowd change from month to month, depending on the featured artists.
“One month we had a young African-American gay poet alongside a straight white woman in her 70s,’ Muuss said. “Both emailed me separately asking, ‘Are you sure this is right? You have me featuring at the same time.’
“They both brought their posses of people who support them, and both groups got to hear the other person’s work, and they made connections that still exist today.
“That’s what art can do. That’s what poetry can do when it’s done right.”
Pasca said some of the poets that have featured together in Bay Shore ended up since becoming good friends.
“Now they’re getting gigs in worlds that they never had access to before,” he said.
Pasca is a published poet and a longtime English teacher at Bay Shore High School. Muuss is a school social worker in the Farmingdale School District, as well as an author, performer and motivational speaker.
She also directs the annual musical at Bay Shore Middle School.
Because of their respective work in the local district, Pasca and Muuss, who also live in Bay Shore, have been able to draw teens to the Second Saturdays events as well — some as young as middle school age.
“Matt has 20 years’ worth of students and a deep investment in the community, and we’ve used that to let the community be aware of this space as a safe place to come and share art, community, and a good coffee,” Muuss said. “The best coffee.”
nuts and bolts
Each event starts at 7 p.m. and runs to 10 p.m., with time enough at the beginning for attendees to order coffee. Then, hosts Pasca and Muuss introduce the two featured poets, who typically read for about 40 minutes combined. The hosts might also acknowledge current events, and maybe offer a quote about poetry or writing in general.
The features are followed by open mic poetry and musical performances. Artists must sign up at the coffeehouse the night of the event, and the slots are 3 to 5 minutes each.
The two featured poets for the next Second Saturdays, which is on Aug. 13, are Barbara Southard and Jard Lerebours. Lerebours is a recent Bay Shore High School graduate and current student at Emery University in Atlanta.
The events are free, though the hosts do pass the hat around for the featured performers, to help with any travel expenses. Donations are voluntary.
courtesy photos from past Second Saturdays events
Interested in honing your writing skills? Matt Pasca and Terri Muuss also run a writing workshop at Cyrus Chai & Coffee Company called The Sunday Grind. It’s a weekly workshop that runs for eight weeks at a time. It’s $80 for the full series of workshops or $15 per individual session.
Email Pasca at email@example.com for additional information.