Saturday, June 22, 2024

Hub Comics in Somerville’s Union Square – seen Aug. 29, 2021, after renovations – will host a Lit Crawl event Thursday. (Photo: Marc Levy)

For one night only, Union Square will be taken over by a literary festival of sorts organized by Lit Crawl Boston.

From the hours of 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, there will be more than 20 events – entirely free – in various spaces across the square. Though the events are all book-related, the program intentionally includes creative and out-of-the-box interpretations of that definition.

“We’re looking for stuff that’s outside of the general realm of what you would think of a literary event,” said James Sullivan, co-founder of Lit Crawl Boston and this year’s program director. “The idea is different, fun, unusual things that have to do with the written and spoken word.”

There’s a poetry slam – audience participation encouraged. You could hear a talk on Phillis Wheatley, a poet who in 1773 was the first person of African descent and the third colonial American woman to be published, by Danielle Legros Georges and Artress Bethany White, editors of “Wheatley at 250: Black Women Poets Re-imagine the Verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters.” There’s an opportunity to hear from writers who are homeless, in transition or recently housed and are part of Black Seed Writers Group, along with their editor, Atlantic columnist James Parker. If reading “Ulysses” has always felt daunting, you might enjoy some short theatrical adaptations of James Joyce’s work by the Here Comes Everybody Players, a Boston-based Irish theater company.

The Lit Crawl, produced by the Boston Book Festival, started in 2016 as a collaboration between Sullivan, an arts and culture journalist for The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism at Emerson College, and Alysia Abbott, a writer and the former director of the Boston Literary District.

It was inspired by a crawl in San Francisco, where Sullivan used to live, organized by an organization called Litquake. The idea (what Sullivan calls “unusual literary events in unexpected spaces”) expanded to cities across the United States and world; when Sullivan decided to bring one to Boston, it stuck. Several of this year’s writers and performers are veterans of crawls, Sullivan said, including the Players, who have been with it since the beginning, and the Black Seed Writers Group, who have come twice before.

The first few iterations were held in downtown Boston before the crawl came to Central Square for its 2021 and 2022 festivals. After a break in 2023 due to changes in Boston Book Festival leadership, Sullivan and Abbott decided to give Union Square a try.

“It’s a very walkable neighborhood with a lot of liveliness, and Bow Market was obviously an attraction because it’s such a hub of gathering,” Sullivan said, noting a camaraderie among business owners in Union Square. “It was a fun process to … make Lit Crawl happen for that neighborhood.”

Events are being held in Hub Comics, Gracie’s Ice Cream, Remnant Brewing, Rococo Floral and a host of others. When possible, the placements are intentional: A workshop on ekphrastic writing – poems about works of art – will take place in the Boston Figurative Art Center.

“People are going to pick a painting, sit down in front of it and spend 20 minutes or half an hour writing a brief essay or poem or something based on it,” Sullivan said. The same workshop was held in Graffiti Alley when the crawl was in Central Square.

Side Quest Books & Games and Porter Square Books will have pop-ups in the Bow Market Courtyard for the evening. The courtyard will also have area poets writing custom works with typewriters on handmade paper, and a literary-themed button-making table hosted by Coven, a Charitable Organization of Very Enthusiastic Nerds.

“They’re interactive,” Sullivan said, “and you get to take something home.”

The Lit Crawl website is here.