MYSTIC — Poets Christie Max Williams and Albert Kausch will join forces Friday night for the fall program at The Arts Café Mystic.
The two men "can and should be given credit for the birth of The Arts Café Mystic," said the cafe's artistic director, Lisa Starr, in a statement.
"It all started in 1994," Starr said, soon after Williams moved to Mystic with his wife, Cate Moffett, and their two young children. Williams had been working in New York City where he worked as a consultant on Wall Street, a writer for the National Audubon Society, and in leadership positions for several nonprofit organizations.
Soon after his arrival, Williams heard about an open mic program at the old Blue Jeans Pub at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and decided to attend. It was there he first met Kausch.
"That original event was hosted by Albert Kausch," Starr said, noting that the two men went on to host similar spoken-word gatherings, which gained more and more of a following.
"Then Williams attended a reading by Connecticut Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson," Starr said, something that "had a profound impact” on his commitment to and passion for contemporary American poetry.
"So profound, that it planted the seed for The Arts Café Mystic," said Starr.
"The condensed version is that the two brainstormed for how and where they might host events similar to the reading by Nelson," Starr said, and since Williams had a friend at the Mystic Museum of Art, they started there.
The rest is history, Starr added.
"Within several months The Arts Café Mystic had been created, and opened, with café-style tablecloths and candle light, to a sold-out crowd featuring Marilyn Nelson herself."
Poet Melanie Greenhous served as the artistic director in those early months and for the 10 years to follow.
"Williams picked up the reins," Starr said, and served as artistic director for 15 years, cementing "The Arts Café Mystic’s reputation as a first-rate venue for poets, writers and musicians from around the world."
"Anyone familiar with The Arts Café Mystic will recognize Christie Max Williams as the beloved face, voice and vision of the literary arts series for 15 years, from 2004-2019," Starr said.
After leaving his post to focus on his own poetic endeavors, Williams quickly had his first full collection, "The Wages of Love," scooped and published, she added.
"Shortly thereafter, his stunning collection won the 2022 William Meredith Prize for Poetry," she said, noting that Williams "is also a celebrated local actor" currently rehearsing for his role as Scrooge in the Granite Theatre’s production of "A Christmas Carol."
His poetry has been published in journals, magazines, and anthologies, and he has won the Grolier Prize, placed second in the Connecticut River Review Contest, and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and Morton Marr Prize.
Kausch, a biophiliaist, writer and plant biologist working on projects for global food security, and the author of several books and many papers, patents and essays, will be the "Opening Voice" on Friday.
Honorary Connecticut State Troubadour Lara Herscovitch, who was described by the Boston Globe as “a luminous voice and buoyant stage presence whose big-hearted lyrics embrace the sum of life" — will be the evening's musical guest.