Jim and Sunny Liszanckie outside the Riverhead Diner and Grill in December 2016. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Poetry Street has found a new home.

The popular five-year-old, open-mic venue for poetry readings will take up residence at Sunny’s diner on East Main Street beginning July 28.

Poetry Street, founded in 2014 by poets Susan Dingle and Robert “Bubbie” Brown as a public arts project for the End Arts JumpstART program, convened monthly at the Blue Duck Café. But Blue Duck owner Nancy Kouris’ announcement June 19 that the bakery was closing its Riverhead location on June 23 — ironically, the poetry group’s fifth anniversary — took Poetry Street organizers by surprise and left them scrambling to find a new spot.

With Kouris’ help, that is. Kouris promised to help Poetry Street find a new home in downtown Riverhead., Dingle said, and reached out to Jim Liszanckie, co-owner of the diner with his wife Sunny. The couple had read about the poetry group’s dilemma on RiverheadLOCAL, Dingle said, and “were inspired to offer Sunny’s Diner” as a new home.

The Liszanckies bought the former Riverhead Diner and Grill in 2017. The diner has been in operation on Main Street since 1932

“It seats 84 people, and has a tin ceiling and tile floor. It is lovely,” an excited Dingle wrote in an email to Poetry Street regulars Tuesday night.

Dingle and Brown met with Jim Liszanckie at the diner on Monday.

“Jim unhesitatingly invited us to use the space from 3 to 5 any Sunday and asked when would we like to start,” she wrote. “July 28!”

Sunny’s, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, closes at 2 on Sundays. Beginning this month, it will be open for Poetry Street on the last Sunday of the month, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Poetry Street’s first reading at Sunny’s Diner on July 28 will feature poet Cornelius Eady, member of the faculty of SUNY Southampton’s MFA Program. The reading, followed by the open mic, will be from 3:30 to 5:00, with sign-up for the open mic at 3.

Poetry Street cofounder Susan Dingle, left, presents Blue Duck Bakery partner Nancy Kouris with a proclamation on June 23, Blue Duck’s last day in Riverhead.
Photo: April Pokorny

“Poetry Street thanks Nancy Kouris, owner of the Blue Duck Bakery Café, for providing Poetry Street with a home for five years and for having introduced us to Jim and Sunny,” Dingle said in the email.

“Believing in their vision of the kind of community Riverhead can be, Jim and Sunny have opened their doors to Poetry Street. This is the kind of revitalization that downtown Riverhead most needs, neighbors helping neighbors, as Sunny’s Diner welcomes Poetry Street to a new home on Main Street,” she wrote.

Poetry Street founders’ vision was to create a safe space, where people of every race and generation could meet and share their poetry — to gather, listen to and enjoy each other’s words, and along the way become what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community.”

In addition to the open mic, Poetry Street has readings by featured poets and “an ecumenical social justice ministry of reconciliation and healing, the ‘room without a roof’ where every voice is heard,” Dingle said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.