First creative writing open mic held in pub

Poetry readings, pizza, appetizers, and good conversation graced the English department’s first creative writing gathering and open mic night, hosted this past Monday, May 1, in Colby’s Blue-Light Pub. While ExPRESS poetry often hosts open mic nights in the Mary Low Coffee house, the sponsoring of an open mic night by the English department where students present their own work from their workshop classes is a first-time occurrence. Professors Sarah Braunstein, Cate Marvin, and Adrian Blevins hosted and organized the night, inviting  English majors and minors, those with creative writing concentrations, and students currently enrolled in fiction-writing and poetry-writing classes. However, all students wishing to engage in literary conversation and listen respectfully to their peer’s writings were welcome.

Faculty and students alike spent the first half hour of the night conversing over pizza, wine (for those of-age), and appetizers. They discussed topics ranging from literature to classes to their weekends. In other words, though the night was centered around English and writing, the event provided a great opportunity to get to know fellow classmates beyond the classroom.

At 7:30 p.m., creative writing professor Blevins made her way to the front of the room to open the reading portion of the night. She invited students to read their own poetry, or even just one line that they had written during the semester and believed to be beautiful and true. “It is very hard in poetry to write one true thing,” she said. “If you have one sentence you’ve written that you think is true, then you’ve done something very rare.” She also encouraged students to read pieces from other poets that spoke to them and that they would like to share with the audience. She signaled to a sign-up sheet on the bar, and for the next few minutes, budding writers added their names to the list of speakers for the night.

Sophomore Aaron Cantor, a student in Poetry Writing II, kicked off the night, reading his original piece “How the Bible Taught Me Suffering of the Supposed Virtue of Wandering.” His piece, exploring the Jewish identity and hypocrisies of religion, set a strong precedent for the caliber of poetry presented throughout the night. Sophomore Merrill Read, a poet in Poetry Writing I, followed Cantor, reading her original piece “Which I have Become.” Mattie Wyndham ’19 switched up the nature of the pieces presented, reading a poem she had found earlier in the day and thought the audience may appreciate hearing.

Brit Biddle ’19 attended the event after hearing about it through friends. “I just think it’s really cool that a department can do an event to celebrate work, instead of just turning something in and being done with it. I’m a computer science  and art double major, but it’s awesome to hear what my classmates are up to,” she said, summing up her perspective on the open mic night.

Braunstein, visiting Assistant Professor of English who has recently been hired as a full-time professor, echoed Biddle’s perspective, explaining the rationale behind the event by saying, “Open mics are a way to speak beyond the classroom; to make a broader public gesture. Writers spend lots of time in solitude and concentration. We need gatherings with our kin! We need venues to share work-in-progress. We need listeners who understand the pleasures and pains of making art out of words.”

Students hope to see another similar event in the future, though this time, several mentioned that a working microphone would be a great addition.