Since 2014, students in the English master’s program have hosted a monthly reading series called Broken English. Changing periodically as master’s students enter and graduate, second-year graduate students serve as the program’s emcees, while first- and third-year students read their own works.
But this year, along with the expected change in hosts, the series will occupy a new time and place.
Previously, Broken English took place on Tuesday nights at Proud Larry’s. The series will now take place at 8:30 p.m. on the last Friday of every month at Oxford Canteen. The first one occurs tonight and features Michael Martella reading poetry and Shirin Hijab reading fiction for 10-12 minutes each.
The new hosts of Broken English, Joshua Nguyen and Lara Avery, both of whom work at Oxford Canteen, helped establish the series’ new location. The partnership was first discussed in May, and the details were finalized over the summer.
“After we went to see one of (the hosts) read at a show last year, we all just thought it would be fun to host something like that at Canteen,” said Corbin Evans, chef and co-owner of Oxford Canteen. “It will be their first time hosting the series, and I think (the move) wasn’t so much (about) leaving Proud Larry’s as much as it was trying something new for the shows they are hosting (and) emceeing.”
Nguyen also said that they intentionally changed the event’s timing so that “more students could come without having the dread of waking up in the morning to teach or go to class.”
As a host, Nguyen said that he and Avery plan to create a comfortable, relaxed environment and engage the audience more. For instance, they will pass around funny questions to audience members, collect their responses and read them aloud during breaks throughout the night.
“Poetry readings have so much do with the energy that is transferred between the speaker and the audience,” Nguyen said. “I just hope that we create an environment where that energy is constantly moving throughout the space.”
Avery, a fiction writer, said she enjoys hearing from her fellow fiction writers at each month’s Broken English event.
“Poetry lends itself to live performance pretty often, so it’s nice to be reminded that fiction can be part of an oral tradition, too,” Avery said. “That’s why we get to do what we do at MFA programs — because humans love to get together and tell each other stories.”
Nguyen, who grew up alongside spoken word events, is no stranger to hosting. He has hosted events at high schools, elementary schools and national poetry festivals and as an undergraduate at UT-Austin. Nguyen said he is especially excited to work with Avery this year.
“I love hosting,” Nguyen said. “I like being able to facilitate a creative space for others to shine and have their voices be heard. Also, I like working with Lara — we have a secret handshake and everything.”
Also alluding to the secret handshake, Avery said she feels much the same.
“I love working with Joshua,” Avery said. “Our handshake is awesome, but that’s all I can say about it, because it’s secret. It’s been great putting this together because we’re both go-getters who like making cool stuff happen.”
Evans said that for Oxford Canteen, hosting Broken English represents a new phase in the business.
“This will be the first event of its kind at Oxford Canteen, and we are super excited about it,” Evans said. “We hope to see lots of familiar faces this Friday evening and, hopefully, make some new friends as well. We hope the event inspires other similar events down the road, as well.”
Evans previously hosted wine dinners at Oxford Canteen and said there may be similar events coming throughout the fall. Alongside the readings, Oxford Canteen will have a beer special and three dinner specials prepared by Evans.