It's Your Mug Reading Series (1994-1996)

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It's Your Mug Reading Series was an open mic organized by Toni Asante Lightfoot that met weekly from February 1, 1994 to August 20, 1996 at a cafe in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC. Holly Bass writes: "Each week, we crammed and squeezed into that attic-like room—poets sitting on the floor, on every chair, along the staircase, and sometimes standing outside, heads tilted up towards the second-story window, catching words as they fell from the sky into our open ears." She continues: "The audience ran the gamut from Duke Ellington High School students to middle-aged professors from American University and Georgetown. And while the population was predominantly black, there were also whites, Asians and Latinos in the house—a true representation of DC’s demographics at that time."

In addition to the Tuesday night readings, a smaller group also met on Thursdays for a workshop. Here's Holly Bass again: "Heated arguments would ensue over a given line break or the proper enjambment. It was a space dedicated to growth. If on Tuesday night, your poems weren’t improving or lacked enough poetic muscle, Ms. Lightfoot would gently pull you aside after the reading and inform you that if you had any hope of reading on the open mic again, you had better show up to the Thursday night workshop and start revising your poems. Her house, her rules. And we were all the better for it."

A special "It's Your Mug Issue" of Beltway Poetry Quarterly was published in Summer 2009, on the 15th anniversary of the series. The issue, guest edited by Lightfoot, includes a terrific introduction by Bass, and photos by Thomas Sayers Ellis. Eighteen contributors who were regulars in the series are featured:

It's Your Mug 20th Anniversary at KenCen, 2014. Ernesto Mercer, Toni Blackman, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Joel Dias-Porter, Holly Bass, Brandon Johnson, Twain Dooley.jpg

Members of the group performed at the Kennedy Center in 2014, for the 20th anniversary. From left to right: Ernesto Mercer, Toni Blackman, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Joel Dias-Porter, Holly Bass, Brandon D. Johnson, and Twain Dooley.

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