Open Mics vrs. Literary Events

If you’ve been to any number of open mic events you are well aware of the anything goes environment. Some people go to perform songs they’re still working on while others go to play a song/read a poem and plug a gig they will be doing later that night/week.

I go to practice, learn and listen. But I have to admit, open mics sometimes completely defeat me. Open mic crowds are accepting only because someone else is eager to have their 15 minutes. The applause is pleasant but forced.

Literary events on the other hand jive with energy. People attending these events want to be there. They want to listen and learn and commune at the table of wordsmiths. There is an honest response to the poet and writer.

I didn’t attend last night’s Beanstreets open mic because I had much writing to accomplish. There’s a zone I get in when I write (whether it be sitting at the kitchen table or on the futon). Last week I wrote several sketches and a poem at an open mic… but this week I wanted privacy to prepare a manuscript for an upcoming poetry/music gig. When I organize a reading I want the poems to communicate a theme or motif. I’ve been at literary events where a poet reads a random collection of poems. But I don’t want to deliver randomness… I want to deliver purposeful poetry.

For inspiration I went to the The Academy’s website and read this:

In the days leading up to October 7, 1955, postcards circulated in San Francisco inscribed with the slogan, “6 poets at 6 Gallery.” The Six Gallery was a run-down art gallery… and the six poets were: Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, and one unknown poet from the East Coast, Allen Ginsberg.

Organized by Ginsberg and his good friend Jack Kerouac, the poetry reading became one of the most notorious literary events of the 1950s. Wine flowed freely from jugs and crowds cheered during the reading. It was in this energized atmosphere that the 29-year-old Ginsberg, having published little up to that point, unveiled an early version of his poem, “Howl,” to a mesmerized audience whose relentless cheers of “Go! Go! Go!” brought him to tears by the end of the performance.

–From This Week’s Spotlight Essay on The Academy of American Poets

That was a literary event. Not an open mic. I still enjoy doing open mics, but I get real jazzed about poetry gigs.

Just got an email today saying that the organizer of a poetry gig (where I’ll be performing) was distributing flyers and posters, which I designed. Two weeks to go. Am I read? Time will tell. Hopefully I’ll have my chapbook available for the event.

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