The Open Mouth Reading Series was founded in 2015 to foster contact between professional poets and our local Northwest Arkansas community poets outside an academic setting. Our founders saw that many institutional barriers limited access to the literary poetry community and believed that poetry should be available to anyone.
Each month, Open Mouth hosts a reading featuring a nationally-touring poet. This poet is joined by ten opening readers who read a poem each, giving local poets the chance to read work alongside the more established feature and promote a sense of community. The featured poet also leads a generative workshop on a subject of their choosing which is open to the public. The workshop is donation-based rather than fixed cost to ensure that income level is not a barrier to access.
In its 5 years of programming, Open Mouth has hosted approximately 76 readings and featured more than 120 poets, fiction writers, and translators, both touring nationally and based in Northwest Arkansas, who represent a range of ages, experience levels, and racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and sexual identities. Since 2017, we’ve added special event workshops, annual retreats and festivals, residencies for local poets, and conferences to our programming.
Open Mouth strives to ensure that events are accessible to a wide array of audiences by providing ASL interpreters and CART captioners for events, gathering materials in advance to allow ASL and CART providers to prepare, providing materials for visual aid access, offering image descriptions, and keeping online options for programming in the future.