Reading Series

Red Sofa Salon218

October 11, 2013, Red Sofa Reading Series launch at Indy Hall. Photo by Gralin Hughes.

The Red Sofa Reading Series launched in October 2013 with the intention of creating a venue for sharing some of the best contemporary poetry and to help poets reach a wider audience in Philadelphia. Curator Hila Ratzabi viewed the Red Sofa Reading Series as an extension of her living room. Have a glass of wine and a snack, mingle with old and new friends, and sit back and listen to some poetry. The reading series took place at the co-working space Indy Hall, a community of inspiring self-starters who love to work together. The Red Sofa Reading Series ceased in September 2016.


May 26, 2016: Red Sofa Reading Series
Featuring Jess X. Chen, Elizabeth Onusko, Michelle Y. Burke
Hosted by Hila Ratzabi
The Head & The Hand Press @ Powel House
244 S 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at the door

Jess headshot Onusko Headshot 2016 michelle burke headshot

Jess X. Chen is a queer first generation Chinese-American poet, artist/activist, filmmaker, and educator. She is the author of poetry chapbook, From the Earthworm To The Night. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, her work has been a part of Asian American Film Festival, Apogee, CURA, Muzzle, The Wingluke Museum, Vinyl Poetry, Yale Environmental Film Festival, and on three national tours of spoken word poetry. Her work intimately exposes narratives of ecological and colonial trauma, Asian-American diaspora and collective protest by connecting the violence between the female/colored body and the body of the Earth.

Elizabeth Onusko is the author of Portrait of the Future with Trapdoor, which received the Bryant-Lisembee Book Prize and was published by Red Paint Hill in April 2016. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in WitnessBest New Poets 2015Conduit, DIAGRAM, Sixth Finch, andRedivider, among others. She is assistant editor of inter|rupture. Her website is

Michelle Y. Burke is the author of the poetry collection Animal Purpose, winner of the 2015 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, and the poetry chapbook Horse Loquela, winner of the 2007  Red Mountain Review Chapbook Series Award. Her poetry has appeared inPoetry, New Orleans Review, Hopkins Review, So to Speak, and elsewhere. She has received two poetry prizes from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund, a national poetry prize from the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, an award from the American Literary Review, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center.

CONTACT: Hila Ratzabi
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November 13, 2015: Red Sofa Reading Series
Featuring M. Nzadi Keita, Lisa Sewell, Sarah Blake
Event location is now at Brandywine Workshop, 728 S. Broad Street

Lisa SewellM Nzadi KeitaSarah Blake






Lisa Sewell is the author of several books, including Impossible Object, which won the 2014 Tenth Gate Prize from The Word Works. She is also co-editor, with Claudia Rankine, of American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan 2007) and Eleven More American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics Across North America (Wesleyan 2012). She has received grants and awards from the Leeway Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, and held residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso and The Tyrone Guthrie Center. New work is appearing of forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander and Mead. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Villanova University.

M. Nzadi Keita’s latest book, Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass, was published by Whirlwind Press. Her poems also appear in anthologies including Peace Is A Haiku Song, A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. Keita is an associate professor of creative writing and contemporary American literature at Ursinus College.

Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West, out with Wesleyan University Press. Named After Death, her first chapbook, is forthcoming from Banango Editions. Her poems have appeared, or will soon, in The Kenyon Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, and many other journals. She was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship for poetry in 2013. She is Editor at Saturnalia Books and co-founder of Submittrs. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and son.

October 9, 2015: Red Sofa Reading Series Two-Year Anniversary
Featuring Rich Villar, J. Mae Barizo, Yesenia Montilla

Indy Hall
22 North 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at the door
Cupcakes by Whipped Bakeshop
DJ Dance Party!
Hosted by Hila Ratzabi


Rich Villar is a writer, performer, editor, activist, and educator originally from Paterson, New Jersey. His first collection of poems, Comprehending Forever (Willow Books), was a finalist for the 2015 International Latino Book Award. He is an alum of the VONA/Voices Workshop (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) and theBread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He has been quoted on Latino/a literature and culture by HBO and The New York Times. He maintains his personal blog at and is a contributor to Latino Rebels and Sofrito For Your Soul.

Born in Toronto, J. Mae Barizo is the author of The Cumulus Effect (Four Way Books). A prize-winning poet, critic and performer, recent work appears in AGNI, Bookforum, Boston Review and Los Angeles Review of Books. She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from Bennington College, the Jerome Foundation and Poets House. She lives in New York City.

Yesenia Montilla is a New York City poet with Afro-Caribbean roots. Her poetry has appeared in the chapbook For The Crowns Of Your Head, as well as the literary journals: 5AM, Adanna, Tje Wide Shore and others. She received her MFA from Drew University in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. Her first collection of poetry The Pink Box is forthcoming from Willow Books in Fall 2015.

March 20, 2015: Red Sofa Reading Series
Indy Hall
22 North 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at the door
Sponsored by 2nd Story Brewing!

ross_gayRosebud Ben-Oni Fall 2014ailish_hopper_photo




Ross Gay is the author of Against Which (CavanKerry Press, 2006) and Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). His poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewMARGIE, Ploughshares and many other magazines. He has also, with the artist Kimberly Thomas, collaborated on several artists’ books: The Cold Loop, BRN2HNT and The Bullet. He is an editor with the chapbook press Q Avenue. Ross Gay received his M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and his Ph.D. in American Literature from Temple University. He teaches in the creative writing program at Indiana University.

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, and a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013) and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts ( Her work is forthcoming or appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol, among others. Find out more about her at

Ailish Hopper is the author of Dark~Sky Society (2014), selected by David St. John as runner up for the New Issues prize, and the chapbook Bird in the Head (2005), selected by Jean Valentine for the Center for Book Arts Prize. Individual poems have appeared in AgniAPR, Blackbird, Harvard Review Online, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tidal Basin Review, and other places. She is currently at work on an essay that imagines the world after the reign of white supremacy, and the difficulties of imagining possibility. She has received support from the Baltimore Commission for the Arts and Humanities, the MacDowell Colony, Maryland State Arts Council, and Yaddo, and teaches at Goucher College and in the visual art MFA program at University of Maryland Baltimore County.

January 9, 2015: Red Sofa Reading Series
Paul Lisicky
Paul Nemser
Anne-Adele Wight

Nov. 6–7, 2014: Two Special Events!

FULL BLEED: Poetry Comics Show

“The visual has always been an important means of communication, from caveman paintings, to graphic novels, to IKEA instruction manuals. We know it fits in somewhere with poetry, beginning with how poets and artists have always looked lovingly upon one another, and ending somewhere more uncharted. … Poetry and poets who interact with the visual has limitless implications, from traditional use of the comic-strip and comic book, to a much more experimental use of text and image. I wish to go boldly, willingly, into Poetry Comics, and see what people are doing out there. I’m not entirely concerned with defining what I mean by Poetry Comics, but rather seeing how many tiny silver arrows we can launch at it. And perhaps how many it can launch back at us.” –Bianca Stone

FULL BLEED celebrates the art of the poetry comic. In the same way that full bleed printing expands to the edge of the page, poetry comics dilate across genre lines. Poetry as bleeding heart mixes with the whimsy of comics to produce work that startles and ignites. Word and image hold hands, tell each other stories, console each other, party together.

Bianca Stone is the co-founder and editor of Monk Books, author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows (Tin House/Octopus Books, 2014), and co-author of Antigonick, with Anne Carson (New Directions, 2012). She founded the Ruth Stone Foundation in 2012 and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Matthea Harvey is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Of Lamb and If the Tabloids are True What are You? and two books for children.

Sommer Browning‘s most recent book of poetry is Backup Singers (Birds, LLC; 2014). She is also the author of Either Way I’m Celebrating (Birds, LLC; 2011), a collection of poetry and comics, and various chapbooks. She works as a librarian in Denver.

Sampson Starkweather is the author of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. He is a founding editor of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry press. His most recent chapbook is Flowers of Rad by Factory Hollow Press, and he lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Jon-Michael Frank has work published or forthcoming in Anti-, Inter/rupture, Sink Review, Sixth Finch, and Spork Press, among others. A chapbook of poems is forthcoming from Birds LLC, and another chapbook, of comics, is being released by El Aleph Press in 2014. Jon-Michael is also an assistant editor for the small press Birds, LLC, helps run a reading series in Austin, TX, called Fun Party, and sells illustrations about life, or the lack of it, on etsy.

Annie Mok makes comics, collaboratively and solo, acts, and sings in the pop group See-Through Girls. She lives in Philadelphia. “Shadow Manifesto” is a three-part series that ran on ZEAL, a website spotlighting criticism and responses to video games.

Paul Siegell is the author of wild life rifle fire, jambandbootleg, and Poemergency Room. He is a copywriter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a senior editor at Painted Bride Quarterly. Kindly find more of Paul’s work – and concrete poetry t-shirts – at “ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL” (

Emily Ballas is a Philadelphia-based graphic designer, for now. She is an eager, curious type. Design-wise and otherwise. Part builder, experimenter, and storyteller, Emily’s work can be found at

Hila Ratzabi is a poet and freelance editor. She is the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press, 2009). She is founder of the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop (and reading series) in Philadelphia, and the editor-in-chief and poetry editor of the literary journal Storyscape.

FULL BLEED: Poetry Comics Show
Thursday November 6th, 7:00pm
Exhibit preview and poetry reading featuring:
Bianca Stone
Sommer Browning
Sampson Starkweather
Annie Mok
Paul Siegell

Hosted by Hila Ratzabi

Friday November 7th, 5:00–9:00pm
First Friday opening night
Complimentary cupcakes from Whipped Bakeshop!
Live, sliding-scale sketch portraits of guests by artist Annie Mok!

Both events are free and take place at Indy Hall

October 10, 2014: Red Sofa Reading Series One Year Anniversary!

Patrick Rosal
Yolanda Wisher
Chloe Martinez

Followed by funk dance party with DJ Easy Reader
Wine and book signing
Cupcakes by Whipped Bakeshop
Hosted by Hila Ratzabi

Indy Hall
22 North 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at the door

May 9, 2014: Red Sofa Reading Series

Michael Klein
Leah Umansky
Kasey Jueds

January 31, 2014: Red Sofa Reading Series

Jeffery McDaniel
Amy King
Cynthia Lowen

February 1, 2014: Poetry on Social & Environmental Justice: A Reading and Discussion with Poets Cynthia Lowen & Hila Ratzabi

Co-sponsored by the Coalition for Peace Action Pennsylvania

November 22, 2013: Red Sofa Reading Series

Vijay Seshadri
Dennis Nurkse
Kate Greenstreet

Sponsors: Sarah Lawrence College and El Aleph Press

October 11, 2013: Inaugural Red Sofa Reading

Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Kamilah Aisha Moon
Iain Pollock

Sponsor: Whipped Bakeshop