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Culture / Arts

A Space Where Words Still Matter

Dallas’ Literary Scene Gets a Huge Boost From This Organization’s Headliner Series

BY // 09.05.17

With its slew of world-class museums and performance spaces, not to mention the bigger-than-ever Dallas Art Fair, Dallas has become a widely recognized hub for visual and performing arts. The literary scene, on the other hand, is still a fledgling — despite an abundance of local talent.

Since WordSpace was founded in 1994 by poet Robert Trammel, the organization has worked to elevate Dallas’ literary scene and create a tight-knit community of writers and readers.

In recent years, WordSpace has brought widely known and beloved authors to town, while continuing to provide a platform for locally grown writers and artists.  With its ultra-popular Headliners Series, WordSpace has hosted literary giants like Dan Savage, Sandra Bernhardt, Laurie Anderson, Nikki Giovanni and John Waters at Dallas’ Kessler Theatre.

This season, the Headliners Series will kick off with Lonnie Holley, an American artist and musician will perform at the event – songwriting has always been included in WordSpace’s repertoire.

However, the organization also throws dozens of other events throughout the year — all of which are free — to help revitalize Dallas’ literary scene.

WordSpace’s series at the South Dallas Cultural Center, titled, African Diaspora: New Dialogues, has generated serious buzz since its inception.

“This is the fourth season, and if I may say so myself, we have brought in remarkable people,” says WordSpace board president Charles Dee Mitchell. “Last year we had the poet Tyehimba Jess. He read for us on a Thursday night, and that weekend it was announced that he won the Pulitzer Prize.”

This year, the organization is launching a similar series at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. “We always say that the diversity of our programming reflects the diversity of the talent pool,” Mitchell says.

The new series will feature award-winning Mexican writer Yuri Herrera, as well as Arizona-based Mojave American poet Natalie Diaz.

WordSpace is diving into its 24th season with a launch party at The Wild Detectives on Thursday, September 7. The event will feature a reading from author Brian Allen Carr, music from Inferno Texino, dollar tacos provided by El Padrino, and celebratory birthday cake.

“Brian Allen Carr is a Texas novelist, and he’s one of the rare readers we’ve ever had who also knows how to put on a show,” Mitchell says.

Carr will be reading from his new novel Sip, a strange and dystopian vision of the future.

“People have learned that they can get high by drinking their shadows, and the novel takes place about 100 years later, where society has completely fallen apart and it’s basically the wild west,” Mitchell says.

The party, like most WordSpace events, will be free and open to the public. But Mitchell isn’t shy about admitting the organization’s ulterior motives.

We’ll be asking people for money – let’s not pretend we won’t be!” he laughs. “We are a nonprofit organization and in past years we’ve paid an average of 10,000 dollars in local honoraria to writers that read for us, and we would like to raise that money locally.”

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