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Pub or Perish 2010! 

Here at the Arkansas Times, we're big fans of the written word. We're also big fans of bars. Once again this year, those two loves collide like tanked-up Jell-O wrestlers as we present our annual free-admission reading series, Pub or Perish 2010.

After debuting in 2004 — the first year of the festival — with a borrowed sound system and a homemade lectern, Pub or Perish opens the book on 2010 at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 10, at Prost, 120 Ottenheimer — just around the corner from Willy D's and across the street from the River Market's Ottenheimer Hall. The event runs to 10 p.m. On tap are readings by festival authors and local writers, including the always amazing Little Rock fictionist-fabulist Kevin Brockmeier, Comanche poet Sy Hoahwah, Cherokee author Holland Colclasure, poets Bryan Borland and Lennon Simpson, and a special appearance by Lorri Davis, reading from the work of her husband, Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. As is our custom, there will also be a very limited number of 2-minute open mic slots available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis, starting at 7:40 p.m.

Once again this year, Yours Truly will serve as the genial host of Pub or Perish. Given that, I graciously agreed to give myself an interview about the event. Asked what's so great about Pub or Perish in general, founder David Koon said it has always been an opportunity for authors and fans of literature to get together in a relaxed setting and just have a good time enjoying language. “As you know better than anyone, David, that has always been the heart of Pub or Perish: getting writers and readers together in a setting where it's OK to cheer if you like what's coming from the stage,” Koon said. “After all, celebration and literature come from the same place — the joy of being alive — so a reading in a bar has always made perfect sense to me. Meaning, of course, us.”

Koon is particularly excited about having Prost as this year's venue. He said it might be the best space Pub or Perish has ever had. “You pretty much couldn't ask for a better location for a literary reading,” he said. “Lots of art, brick walls, great acoustics. Maybe best of all, they've got an integrated sound system throughout the bar so we hopefully won't have the problems with audio that Pub or Perish has suffered in recent years.” Immediately after saying that, he knocked on the faux wood of his desk, then resumed fashioning a large megaphone out of poster board and duct tape.

Koon said that the always-entertaining Brockmeier and great poet Hoahwah (whose book “Velroy and the Madische Mafia” was just published by West End Press) are bound to be a treat, and added that he's particularly excited about hearing the work of West Memphis Three author Echols. Arrested in 1993 for the murders of three young boys in West Memphis – crimes which hundreds of thousands of supporters all over the world are now convinced he didn't commit – Echols has distinguished himself as an essayist and poet during his years in prison. His wife, Davis, has graciously agreed to read from his work. “Having Damien's work at Pub or Perish is something that I've wanted to do for years, but could never quite make it come together,” Koon said. “As I told Lorri, I'm confident that one of these days we'll have him there to read in person.”

While the top of the bill is impressive, Koon said he's also excited to introduce the audience to some of the lesser-knowns on the bill. “The local writers we have lined up this year are really terrific,” he said. “Bryan Borland, who recently published a book called ‘My Life as Adam,' is a really stunning poet, as are Lennon Simpson and Holland Colclasure. They're incredibly varied in their delivery and style.”

Pub or Perish
8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Prost. Free.

For more information about Pub or Perish, call David Koon at 375-2985, ext. 345, or e-mail david@arktimes.com.

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