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I had always loved to write. Even at a tender age, when I didn’t yet know how to spell, I would be writing my own illustrated stories inspired by my favorite cartoon characters. Later on, I started writing poetry, but I was shy and didn’t really share it with much of anyone, except perhaps a couple of my teachers and maybe my parents (even though they always were, and still are, very supportive of my writing). It wasn’t until I discovered a funky group of writers in Peekskill NY that my life started to take a much different, and very interesting turn.
At 25 years old I was enrolled in a Language Arts program at SUNY Purchase and beginning to find my voice as a writer, when I made friends with an older poet who told me about a group that met regularly in town. Even though I was still pretty much an introvert, I decided to join said group, which met once a week on Thursday nights at one of the poet’s artist’s lofts in Peekskill NY.
Peekskill is a fast growing artists’ community. Even back in 2005, Peekskill was filled with a growing number of artist’s studios. There are artists of all different kinds who live and work in Peekskill – anywhere from painters to tattoo artists – and they come in all colors and from all different backgrounds. When I joined the South Street Poets Writer’s Group, I met a bunch of quirky, lovable people who became like a second family to me. They helped encourage me to come out of my shell and share my love of writing with the world.
It was a very unique experience not only because I had never joined a group of writers before, but because I was the youngest person there. Every other writer was at least in their forties or over fifty. They treated me as equal (much to my surprise) even though I jokingly called myself their “mascot” (not in an egotistical way mind you). I loved my fellow writer friends and received lots of tips from them on how to become more confident. For instance, I was told to edit my work after writing and not to be concerned with things like grammar and syntax before I’d even finished the piece. As I continued to come to the small gathering of writers, I became accustomed to receiving positive and helpful feedback, and I began to grow more confident as a writer.
Soon, I was reading at the Studio Two Open Mic, which took place every First Friday of the Month at the same location that the groups met (on South Street, hence our name, the “South Street Poets”). I began to enjoy sharing my own work. There are many opportunities in Peekskill to share your writing and music with others. Over the years Open Mics have sprung up in many different venues here, and each one is unique.
I was also blessed to meet my wonderful and caring husband at one of the Open Mics at South Street in 2010. We got married in 2014 at Croton Point Park, outside, on a beautiful spring day in May. Today we live in Peekskill, and my friend who ran the Open Mic at the South Street location still runs Open Mics at a new location on South Street, conveniently located right across from our apartment (yes, we happen to live on the exact same street we met on!)
Today, there are SO many opportunities to experience wonderful performance art in Peekskill, and the Open Mics are no exception! You can come to the Open Mic at 925 South Street, which happens every Second Friday of the month at 7:30 pm (sign-up, show starts at 8:00pm). I also go to another Open Mic that occurs on occasion at the Bean Runner Cafe, and you can find out when that will be at their website. Sometimes, the Peekskill Coffee Shop– where I go to meet friends, new and old, and enjoy a caffeinated or non-caffeinated drink or two – has Open Mics on Saturdays, and they are usually musical. The Kurzhal’s Coffee Shop (located at 900 Main Street in the historic Dramatic Hall building) has started having Open Mics as well! You can choose between a Literary one and a Musical one. (I have as yet to go to either, but I’m sure they’re lots of fun!) You can call the shop for details. They have great hours there throughout the week. Visit their website at for more!
I love to go to various shops in Peekskill (like the Fern Tree – which is an African style clothing and accessory shop) or the Bruised Apple Books and Music, one of the most unusual bookstores around! Also, who doesn’t love a trip to the riverfront, where you can get some ice cream and enjoy a leisurely stroll? Not to mention all the wonderful restaurants on Restaurant Row, like 12 Grapes and the Quiet Man Pub. There’s also the popular and historical (was a stopover for George Washington back in the day) Birdsall Pub. Kathleen’s Tea Room is another lovely place that everyone can enjoy, with scrumptious desserts and an amazing selection of many different teas!
The only drawbacks I find about living in Peekskill these days are that it’s a bit expensive to stay here. If you are an artist, you can apply to rent a living and working artist’s studio (these can get expensive as well), but you should make sure you have a steady income. It’s kind of hard to find affordable housing. We live in a small apartment that is in one of the older buildings. While the place is small, it is still cozy and comfortable, and we’ve got a great view of South Street! We can even see the river from the roof (where I sometimes sit and watch the world go by). While it can get noisy at times, you can also enjoy a quiet stroll and enjoy the scenery.
At its best, Peekskill is a wonderful place to walk around and meet new people. Visit Restaurant Row (North Division Street) and discover fine dining. You will also find wonderful galleries and artwork along the way: like the amazingly beautiful intuitive artwork of my good friend Nadine Gordon-Taylor at Third Eye Studio Gallery (across from the Peekskill Coffee Shop). Find a new book to love at the Field Library Bookstore, which is completely volunteer run (located at 934 Suth Street). If you’d like a quiet stroll, grab some ice cream with your family on a hot day at the Hudson Creamery before enjoying the newly redesigned Riverfront! With an expansive space to run, play, and lounge with friends and loved ones, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic or a bit of meditation. Enjoy the newly established pathways that take you over a peaceful stream, with the breathtakingly beautiful Hudson River in full view.
Peekskill is wonderful, creatively driven place that’s just filled with surprises! You never know what you’ll find here, so come by some day and see!
Also check out Sara’s article on LaGrangeville.