Open Mics... Keepin' it Real
|Image taken by Edward Vidaurre|
A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of attending an open mic poetry event in Harlingen at The Prelude. This venue was totally new to me, and in the end, I'm really glad I took the plunge and headed out.
I typically don't do open mics -- they often are an odd assortment of readers, and you never know what kind of tone or environment you're stepping into as a poet. The opposite of an open mic, I suppose, is a curated poetry reading with poets invited by a specific host who sets the tone, theme, and mood. Open mics are a mixed bag, a chance, but the result can be really wonderful (or really shitty for that matter).
This event, though, was far more on the wonderful side of the scale. It was hosted by Julieta Corpus, who is a good friend of mine from back in my MFA days. I was feeling pretty lousy that day -- I know this is becoming a constant on my blog, but I'd been struggling with some health issues again this week. Harlingen is also about an hour drive from where I live, but at the last moment, I was lying on my sofa, I looked over at B and asked, well, should we get out of the house tonight? He nodded his head, said, sure, if you want, and of course the spirit was willing. I packed up my tablet and we headed out the door.
We arrived a little late, and there was standing room only, though an employee brought B and I a table and some chairs, I guess because I was limping around, coughing, and looking utterly pathetic. I got cozy and listened in to the poetry to get a feel for the event before deciding if I'd chime in with a poem or two of my own. There were a few brand new baby poets who'd never read before, poets who were new to me, and of course, some old friends like Edward Vidaurre, Linda Romero, and Jim Griswald. The topics ranged from body image issues, cancer, and love. A good range of a slice of life, indeed. Feeling inspired, I tapped on Julieta's shoulder and asked to be added to the list.
I looked through my tablet, deciding what to read, and settled on a single poem I'd been working on lately, one I felt I'd finally finished but I wasn't quite sure. This reading would give me a clear idea, I figured. And it seemed lighthearted enough to read in front of strangers. Then, I ordered some coffee for B and I, and sat back to enjoy the evening.
When it was my turn, I hobbled up to the stage, read my poem a little nervously, but the audience seemed to like it, so that helped me feel more confident in it. I now feel like the poem is "done" and I'd be comfortable reading it in front of any crowd. In fact, I think I'll read it at my upcoming reading in Austin :)
I left a little before the night was over -- my back was achy, my cough out of control, and I had work the next morning. B and I slunk out into the night and made the drive home, debriefing and discussing the works, settling on our high points of the night, and determining that it was, indeed, a success! I'll be back for more events at The Prelude in the future.
So here's why I think poets, at any points in their careers, should attend open mics:
1. They keep us grounded. There's something totally democratic about being #12 on a list to read, of following a complete poetry virgin and having the opportunity to congratulate them for a job well done.
2. You never know who you're going to meet -- at this event, I didn't meet anyone new, but I did see some good friends from a side of the valley I don't often venture into. So, for me, it was more of a reconnecting.
3. Open mics are PERFECT for trying out new material. There's no expectation there -- if you bomb, people probably aren't even going to remember your name.
4. You'll get to hear a hodge-podge of different poetry styles, maybe even listen to types of poetry you typically shy away from. And that's a good thing. It opens the mind.
5. They're fun. I had fun :)