Just reporting back after a successful Open Mic event on Saturday evening at Zola’s Café in Auburn, Washington. It was a great event and I think a good time was had by all. A number of people from the community joined us, a couple of families with children were there, and a contingent of folks from the UW Bothell 2014 Cohort drove down from the Seattle area to offer support and to read.
I thought we had a nice diversity of people in different ages and stages of life (children, parents, college students, local writers). Even people who just happened to be at Zola’s during the Open Mic but hadn’t come to perform were inspired to participate. I brought a selection of poetry books and anthologies for people to choose from if they didn’t want to read something they’d written. Lewis Carroll was a popular choice–three different selections of his poetry by three different readers.
My grandfather’s old bowler hat became the hat from which we drew names randomly for the next reader. The general rule we followed was that each reader had five minutes to read, and could put their name back into the hat if they wanted an opportunity to read again later. Nearly everyone who read enjoyed it enough to want to come back up a second time. Some even did a third reading before we ran out of time.
Before the Open Mic began, I went around to each table of customers to let them know the Open Mic was about to start and that they were welcome to listen or join in by reading a selection from a book I’d brought or maybe something they’d memorized. Everyone was excited to be there while an event was happening, and it was fun to see them wander over to the table, browse through a book of poetry, and then write their name on a slip of paper and throw it in the hat.
After each reader’s moment of applause (the audience was warm and accepting of everyone who shared), I would ask them briefly what their inspiration was for the poem (if it was something they’d written), or what had inspired them to read the particular one they’d chosen if it were something by another author. The first two people were sort of taken aback slightly by my question and the need to stay up in front of the crowd after they’d finished reading, but after that, everyone seemed to understand the routine and were more than willing to share about their inspiration.
Some shared deeply personal things about their own poetic inspiration, while some others simply said, “Because it’s a good poem. And I like it and wanted to read it.”
Even the barrista on duty read a poem called A Local Coffee Shop.
There was a lot of laughter, a few tears, and I felt relationships were built as people shared their poems, their art, and a bit of their hearts. A number of people signed up to be emailed when we do it again. The owner of Zola’s wasn’t there on Saturday night, but she dropped me a note on Monday and said that she’d heard wonderful things about the Open Mic from the people who were working that night. She said she hopes it can become a monthly event at Zola’s. I hope so, too.