Mutant Radio Turns One
Olympia Poetry Series Celebrates Their One Year Anniversary With a Reading on October 26
By Felix Asherah Chrome
Standing around on the sidewalk with friends, hugging and chatting as the sun goes down, it feels just like the scene outside one of the countless punk shows I’ve attended since I moved to Olympia. But I’m not here to see my friends’ bands play. We are gathered in front of the New Moon Cooperative Café on a Sunday night for Mutant Radio, one of Olympia’s only ongoing poetry series.
Someone yells that it is about to start and as we stomp out our cigarettes and crowd inside, the energy is decidedly different. People file into the rows of folding chairs and sit patiently sipping from water bottles or Vita coffee cups, not a single Rainer can or 40 oz in sight. I find a spot on the floor and get comfortable, ready to listen.
Mutant Radio Poetry Night is just the latest iteration of a series of now defunct projects that were once called “Mutant Radio.” Alice Wynne started Mutant Radio as it exists now with the hopes of igniting a new poetry scene in Olympia. Wynne tries to bring a “punk energy” to poetry in a town where the creative community is dominated by punk bands and house shows.
Mutant Radio was founded to be a group of friends. Wynne explains that since Olympia is so small, you tend to get familiar with everyone in your scene. In this way, Wynne sees the entire Olympia creative community as a friend group who should support one another’s work and have space to share whatever we are doing.
Wynne tells me about the first Mutant Radio Poetry Night when Nora McKinnon read receipts from their job at Old School Pizzeria. Wynne loves work like this because it performs what is often thought to be unperformable, like someone just talking about their day to a friend, but one friend is replaced with an audience, or maybe, a community of artists.
When we sit down to chat about Mutant Radio, Wynne tells me “I had chocolate and a cigarette and a banana for breakfast, write that down, put that in the paper” going on to say “I have a tendency to stay up late and my thoughts are incomplete, I write the way someone who lives my lifestyle [writes] and am attracted to other stuff like that,” then shrugs and says “poetry that’s cool.” Mutant Radio fights against uptight academic ideas of poetry readings, bringing this relaxed attitude to everything they do.
Wynne told me Mutant Radio is for freaky stuff, “no navel-gazing contemplative bullshit.” Mutant Radio encourages forms and perspectives in poetry outside the norm. “People on the margin don’t really get listened to, and because they are on the margin they have weird ideas,” said Wynne. “People who are treated as freaks do really freaky shit.”
As a result, Mutant Radio primarily showcases queer and women poets and performers. While we were talking, Wynne doodled a picture of a boy looking away inscribed in a circle with the phrase “Boys Suck!!!” and later added, “I should probably get this tattooed” holding up the drawing to a flexing arm.
Mutant Radio’s one-year anniversary reading is coming up on Oct. 26, and will include readings by Kym Walden, Maryjane Dunphe, and Alice Wynne. It is also the release of the second issue of Alice Wynne’s zine, “The New Beverly.” The zine is a “lifestyle magazine for scapegoats and for staying up late and for muttering to yourself.” This issue’s theme is dreams, and features submissions from Olympia writers, many of whom have performed at Mutant Radio. It also features Wynne’s own writing.
Mutant Radio doesn’t have any plans to change in the near future. Readings will continue at New Moon for now, though some have suggested moving to a venue with more space. Wynne says that thoughts of moving to a bigger city and bringing Mutant Radio along have sounded tempting. But Wynne believes there is a magic to Olympia and its artistic community that has made Mutant Radio Poetry Night what it is.
Wynne still has big hopes for strengthening the poetry scene here. “I thought it would be easy,” replies Wynne, when I ask about lessons learned in the past year. Wynne now knows Mutant Radio can’t transform the creative landscape of Olympia alone. We need more projects and spaces that foster sharing writing. Wynne is always working to bring more performative works to Mutant Radio and get people excited, but it has been difficult to get our town engaged. Wynne ponders this saying, “you just can’t dance to poetry.”