Speak Easy about Speakeasy

Courtney Zoffness C’00: Speakeasy Open Mic made its debut in the fall of 1997—in the basement of “Chats,” a dining commons just across Locust Walk. Our first attendees were defaults: the gal working the pizza counter, a sprinkle of students trying to study in the back, a janitor. We were shameless intruders, calling out to passersby (“What, you don’t like poetry?”), littering each table with flyers, forcing our friends to attend so as to ensure that some of the seats were filled. It was only when we relocated to the newly renovated Writers House, when we plugged into a population that not only supported us, but advocated for us, that we realized how many Pennites shared our interests. In fact, in a matter of mere months, the open mic series proved so popular that we lacked enough seats to accommodate the crowd. The Kelly Writers House established a literary community at Penn that, until then, had existed only in bursts and factions around campus and around town. I am overjoyed to know that the institution and Speakeasy are going 10 years strong.

Courtney Zoffness C’00 was a fiction fellow at Johns Hopkins University and earned an MFA from the University of Arizona. She will return to Penn this fall to teach undergraduate Creative Writing.



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