by Dilruba Ahmed
The venue: The Raven Lounge in Philadelphia, not far from Rittenhouse Square. A scene for unlikely juxtapositions: downstairs, you’ll find board games, and upstairs, a stripper pole. Strobe lights in the bathrooms. This bar earns bonus points for offering nightly drink discounts for teachers (“Teacher Appreciation: Show your Valid ID and get 50% off drinks!”). And on this hot mid-June evening, approximately 70 people have crammed into the dark second floor of the Raven Lounge to celebrate the publication of English teacher and poet Iain Haley Pollock’s first book of poetry, Spit Back a Boy, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. A local bookstore owner recently informed me that the average number of attendees at poetry readings in Philly—and perhaps across the country—falls between 3 and 10, so drawing this kind of crowd is a major feat. What follows is a series of photos from the book launch party.