Literature as Blood Sport

A competitive reading, poetry slam-style

You might think that “literary death match” refers to any Tuesday morning staff meeting in the beleaguered publishing industry, but in fact it’s a competitive reading, poetry slam-style, and it’s coming to Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater on July 16 at 7 p.m. Its double purpose? To hail the release of the new Southampton Review literary journal, courtesy of the college’s M.F.A. program in creative writing and literature. 

The match, part of this summer’s Southampton Writers Conference, will take its cue from The Review and “feature a mix of established authors and new talent,” a release said, as the writers “will perform their most exciting work for seven minutes to a live audience and a panel of literary judges.” Humor is the goal as much as anything else, and “contestants will be judged on both their literary merit and their performances.”

The contestants: Helen Simonson, a graduate of the M.F.A. program and the author of the novel “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” now out with “The Summer Before the War”; Iris Smyles, whose brand-new book is “Dating Tips for the Unemployed”; Timothy Liu, who has a new collection of poems, “Kingdom Come: A Fantasia,” coming out in the fall, and Tracy King-Sanchez, a screenwriter, playwright, and graduate of the program whose work has appeared in The Review.

The judges: the poet Billy Collins, the novelist Meg Wolitzer, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, and Ron Charles, the fiction editor of The Washington Post. 

Heck, even the musical entertainment will have a literary edge, as performed by Altamont, a band led by Zachary Lazar, whose books include “Sway,” a novel of the Rolling Stones. 

Tickets cost $25.