They say there’s an audience for everything. But perhaps this excludes the scatological renderings of Bushwick resident Jonathan Mittiga. Last year Mittiga read a “repulsive” short story that didn’t go down well with the audience and was told, “You can’t read that stuff here,” by the reading’s organizer and was never invited back to read. “[The story] was about gross things. I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t a gross out contest,” Mittiga said. “I was simply writing for an audience of myself.”
Rather than cry, feel like a complete failure, get drunk and swear off writing altogether—as perhaps many of us would’ve done—Mittiga and roommate James Sprang launched the Bushwick Reading Group (BRG) series last October at The West Brooklyn Bar in Williamsburg. The reading happens every last Sunday of the month at 8PM to unsuspecting customers and people trying to study (good luck with that).
“I wanted a place that was not discriminating against fledging writers who are writing things that are off the cuff and reading stuff that isn’t ‘mainstream,’” Mittiga said of his motivation for starting the series. “I think the small group of people I’ve put together, including myself, have a distinct flavor to differentiate us from other reading groups.”
The BRG is open to everyone and all genres are welcome, including short stories, poems and performance pieces. One previous BRG member read a piece detailing the stories of the individual shrunken heads that now make up a string of anal beads, while another member’s drunken ramblings became his performance. Mittiga’s own poems make lots of references to shit—both actual and metaphorical.
“I didn’t realize how much shit was in my poems until I read them out loud,” Mittiga said of his last reading in January.
Still other readers deal with issues of everyday life, strange dreams, heartbreak and relationships. Mittiga says there are no requirements to read, nor need to be repulsive, but having some shit in the pieces couldn’t hurt.
Mittiga, who is originally from Long Island and studied new media, said he wrote his first short story about a year ago to impress a girl. Ultimately, Mittiga decided he didn’t like the story and didn’t show it to the young lady, but he continued writing and began submitting work to several journals.
Mittiga writes in various genres, including poetry and short stories, and is now in the process of writing a novel, which he plans to complete a first draft by the end of the year. The novel’s working title is “From Supple to Crusty,” and is about a woman, who was conceived during an S&M gangbang, searching for her father.
Mittiga admits BRG is still establishing itself as it works to secure committed readers. He also acknowledges the fact that BRG doesn’t currently take place in Bushwick as the name might suggest, but he aims to change that in the future either by moving to Bushwick or changing the name of the group.
“My friends might have the same interests and tastes as me in terms of writing, but they’re not as reliable or forthcoming,” he says of the challenges he’s faced so far. “So I hope to find like-minded people who want to read as well.”
If you’d like to become involved with the BRG contact Jonathan Mittiga at [email protected]. Or swing by on the last Sunday of the month at The West Brooklyn Bar on 379 Union Avenue at 8PM to have a drink and a listen.