For the Open Mic

I went to an open mic tonight. That might seem hyp­o­crit­i­cal based on my stan­dard posi­tion regard­ing them, but this one was specif­i­cal­ly for folks under 30. It was great. There wasn’t one per­son there whose name any­one who pays atten­tion to Cleve­land poet­ry would rec­og­nize. The poet­ry ran the gamut in terms of style & qual­i­ty and there was no ego present, only humil­i­ty. I heard bits of a poet­ic dia­logue between an pris­on­er & his pen pal, poems about being bira­cial, ele­gies, lyrics, sex­u­al­ly sug­ges­tive poems, and down­right fun­ny ones. It was great. There wasn’t one beat-style poem, and no one talked about d.a. levy or any oth­er old dead white guy poets.

To my knowl­edge, I was the only per­son over 30 there. A cou­ple of the folks want­ed me to read, but I declined. I don’t want to be the old guy in the room that I com­plain about. I’m also try­ing to par­tic­i­pate in poet­ry as a lis­ten­er. There are plen­ty of mid­dle-class het­ero­sex­u­al white cis­male writ­ers, who feel like they need to speak, but have lit­tle unique to say, and lit­tle desire to lis­ten to oth­er voic­es. I don’t want to be that guy. I do won­der if my refusal to read was just anoth­er exam­ple of me exert­ing priv­i­lege, and if I should have because I was asked to. I want­ed to hon­or the spir­it of the open mic and also be present to lis­ten. I’ve been to plen­ty of open mics where the audi­ence is whol­ly com­posed of “read­ers” who spend their time think­ing about what they’ll read instead of lis­ten­ing to the per­son actu­al­ly read­ing. This one was filled with lis­ten­ers. Poet­ry 4 Free has been one way for me to remove my ego from my poet­ry prac­tice, lis­ten­ing to under-rep­re­sent­ed voic­es in poet­ry is anoth­er way to remove a bit of ego as well.

I look for­ward to sit­ting and lis­ten­ing in to more of the under-30 open mics. It was great.