“We turn to literature to deal with many things,” Professor Martha Webber said as she opened the English Coffeehouse Open Mic Night on April 17. The English department puts on an open mic event once a semester, allowing students and professors alike to gather and share their work. About 20 people gathered in the Murray Boardroom for the event.
Writers shared several forms of literature; there were multiple personal essays and a short story, but the bulk of the night’s performances consisted of poems of varying lengths and styles. While most read their own work, several students also shared work by their favorite authors. One student read two verses from Percy Shelly’s “Ode to the Wind,” while another read Linton Kwesi Johnson’s “If I Was a Top Notch Poet” as a performance piece.
Both the content and mood of the pieces varied immensely. Voices described the process of writing, the many struggles and comedies of life and the fear and grief of death.
The atmosphere was safe and encouraged inexperienced writers to share their work publicly. During every performance the audience was respectful and attentive, and applauded each speaker powerfully.
Webber shared an open letter to Transcience Corporation, describing her grief regarding her seamonkies’ failure to grow. The letter was as moving as it was funny, combining elements of childish anguish with the profoundly mature voice of a woman wanting to be a mother.
After reading a poem, one student put in a word for the Spoken Word and Poetry club. She explained that she had written her chosen poem with other students from the club, which meets at 8 p.m. on Thursdays in Club Rendezvous. SWAP is a place for students to write, share and talk about spoken word and performance poetry and find out about events such as the Coffeehouse.
As a forum to creatively share all things, from anxieties to funny anecdotes, open mics can sometimes be weighed down by loquacious writers. However, the Coffeehouse managed to avoid this problem, as most of the pieces were brief. At the beginning speakers were asked to keep their performance under fifteen minutes, but no one came close to breaching that limit.
Professor Bill Kupinse, who shared his riotously funny poem “Giraffe Manor,” said of the event, “I always enjoy hearing students share at these events. I love that professors and students share right next to each other—it really creates a sense of community and a safe place to share.”
Kupinse explained that the English Department started putting on the Coffeehouse Open Mic last semester and, due to its success, is discussing the possibility of hosting one every month in the coming fall. This would be a huge benefit to the SWAP community, some of whom find it difficult to find open mic events in the area.
Open mic nights are a tradition that keeps communities of writers together and promotes the power of literature and performance. They are a critical part of writing communities, like the ones contained within the University of Puget Sound. They inspire writers, help them to grow and allow them the cathartic experience of sharing their work.