I figured if just the poets came, we'd have a good turnout, but people kept coming and coming. The room holds 80 and it was completely full. The reading took place from 1:00 to 4:00 and almost everyone was there the entire time. It was primarily women, but we had some guys too.
I decided to keep it simple and use alphabetical order for the reading, and that worked just fine, giving us a nice mixture of poems and voices. I introduced the poets by name only as their bios are on the webpage I made for the event. But each poet was invited to say a few (just a few) words about her woman-related poem. We had poems on a wide variety of topics, e.g., moving to a new home after retirement, empty nest, love, sex, giving birth, breast cancer, and cooking. Halfway through we took a 10-minute break. I practically had to threaten people to get them back into their seats! The excitement and the conversation were going at such a high level. We then went on to the second half of the reading.
Then everyone was invited to join the poets for the Tea Party. A library volunteer made the coffee and tea. Cookies were delicious! The book sale was also going on in the corridor during this time. A number of the poets had books so were invited to bring copies of one title. The most amazing thing happened! People stood in line waiting to buy poetry books. It was a beautiful thing to see. We sold a total of 76 books! More conversation during the book signing.
Just shows what can happen when women support women and poets support poets.
I also had a little strategy going to encourage book sales. While at AWP, I'd picked up six copies of the brand new Wompo listserv anthology, Letters to the World. Each book purchased earned the purchaser one chance to win a copy of the anthology. The more books you bought, the greater your chance to win. The drawing was held at the end of the program. Between the books sold and the anthologies won, we put a lot of poetry out on the street.
I think everyone went home happy and exhilarated by a day of poetry, conversation, renewing old friendships and making new ones. One of the poets said the day felt like a reunion. Cards and email addresses were exchanged. Dates for future readings at different venues were made.
The crowd assembling before the reading. We packed this room.