Writers “Emerge” at the Black Widow Salon

M’Bilia Meekers reads with accompaniment at the Columns Hotel; Room 220 editors refrain from editorializing for fear of seeming creepy; Meekers will perform at the next Black Widow Salon.

The Black Widow Salon continues its monthly literary event series at Crescent City Books in February with a group of “emerging” local writers: Christopher Hellwig, Jenna Mae, M’Bilia Meekers, and Ingrid Norton. The reading takes place on Monday, Feb. 6, from 7 – 9 p.m. (230 Chartres Street).

Presumably an event designed to acquaint the broader reading public with a new set of voices, most of these writers already enjoy a bit of acclaim, either around town or elsewhere.

Christopher Hellwig is former editor of The Black Warrior Review and has published widely in high-brow (if mid-prominence) literary journals. Room 220 featured this selection that appeared in The New Orleans Review. Hellwig read as one part of The Brothers Goat, with Michael J. Lee, last fall at the Antenna Gallery with Michael Martone.

M’Bilia Meekers, a Lusher graduate and current Tulane student, is on the verge of becoming a local poetry sensation, having read as part of the Faulkner Society’s annual festival, the Artfully Aware event last Friday at the New Orleans Museum of Art, as well as at the Columns Hotel and the New Orleans Public Library, along with garnering a not-insignificant hodgepodge of awards. Her range of subjects encompasses her little brother’s penchant for candy (set within the context of Nagin’s “Chocolate City”) as well as—channeling Lucile Clifton—the sexual superiority of black women (see video above).

Jenna Mae is the writer least familiar to Room 220, but she’s published in places like Big Bridge and formerly hosted poetry readings at Fair Grinds Coffee Shop.

Ingrid Norton is relatively new to town, but comes skating in on a series of long-form narrative nonfiction articles published by the Los Angeles Review of Books, including this one based on the year she just spent in Detroit. Her journalism has also been published by Open Letters Monthly (including her review of Ned Sublete’s The Year Before the Flood), the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Dissent. She recently completed a story for Good Magazine about young African-American go-getters in New Orleans, including author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts.

The Black Widow Salon series is a welcome addition to French Quarter literary life. Past events have featured renowned local photographer Josephine Sacabo, whose work is tied tightly to her love of poetry, and Cripple Creek Theater Company playwright Andrew Vaughn. While a couple of its upcoming events feature dusty old and barely remembered poets one would expect to find at the 17 Poets! series at the Goldmine Saloon (no offense to Bill Zavatsky or Ruth Weiss), Room 220 looks forward to hearing UNO professor David Rutledge discuss his work on Nabokov in May.

Michael Zell, the Black Widow Salon’s mastermind, likes to remind people that Monday’s event will start promptly at 7:15 p.m.