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River Styx changes venue for reading series, looks to continue tradition

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2012 - For the first time since 1974, the River Styx monthly reading series will not be held at Duff's Restaurant in the Central West End. 

With Duff's for sale, the series is moving to 313 Belt Ave. at the Tavern of Fine Arts, only a few blocks away from the Forest Park Metrolink stop. 

"They're good people. We kind of think of River Styx as this big, sprawling dysfunctional family and they seem like they would fit right in to that," says Richard Newman, the literary journal's long-time editor.  

At Duff's, readers used the same podium for 37 years. After the presence of so many prize-winning poets and fiction writers, the place developed a singular history and its own ambience, says Newman. Nevertheless, he expects his journal's literary tradition to continue with a robust lineup beginning on Sept. 17 with new Missouri poet laureate William Trowbridge and concluding on April 15 with East St. Louis-born poet Robert Wrigley's return to St. Louis.

This season, the series is introducing a live question and answer session to supplement the readings. Part of the logic behind the new q & a is to further break down the barrier between author and audience. That kind of informality is why the readings take place in a bar, says Newman.

Certainly a lot has changed in the literary world in the 37 years since River Styx's first reading. Despite the rise of e-readers and blogs and the digitalization of the written word, there is still a place for something people want to feel with their hands, Newman says of his literary journal.

River Styx is alive and well, receiving more than 3,000 poetry, fiction and essay submissions every month. About 60-100 people show up to each reading. 

"It's the same minority of people who want to be engaged in something that's language oriented and substantial or idea driven as opposed to tweeted. I don't think we're in these dark literary times where no one wants to read anything substantial anymore. I just don't believe that."

While River Styx has not moved to a digital model, it will make a podcast of the reading series available. Still, Newman says there is nothing like actually being there.

"When else are you going to have a chance to ask the state poet laureate questions in person?"

2012-2013 Schedule

Sept. 17: William Trowbridge and Lynnell Edwards

Oct. 15: George Singleton and Janice N. Harrington

Nov. 19: Alison Pelegrin and Michael Nye

Jan. 21: Jennifer Kronovet and Allison Hedge Coke

Feb. 18: James Arthur, Marcus Wicker, and Matthew Guenette

March 18: Loosely Identified

April 15: Robert Wrigley and Sonya Huber

June 17, July 15, Aug. 19: The Hungry Young Poets Series 2013