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.