On April 14 we held our very first open mic poetry session. We booked a local art gallery and invited in poets and the public to read and listen to the poetry. Debbie Sawzcak started us out well:
"Language is such an amazing gift to the human family! There’s such an incredible diversity of languages, and diverse ways of using each one. Language used well—whether in poetry or prose, writing or speech—has this powerful, flexible, beautiful quality. ... When you receive the pictures and ideas that are conveyed, it makes you glad to be human. … That’s true of all language used well and used creatively, but it’s magnified in poetry by virtue of the sheer economy of words. And the same poem can do that again and again, a little different each time, and it makes you feel gratitude to the person who crafted it." (I recommend that you read her entire opening talk in the attached file, "Why I like poetry.")
Let me begin with an admission. It was only recently that I even knew there was something called an "open mic poetry session." You mean people actually give up nap time on a Sunday afternoon to get toether and read poetry? I had stumbled onto one in a coffee shop in Oakville, and even though I'm not a poet, I actually stayed and enjoyed myself. So I thought, hey, why couldn't we host one of those, too?
So we did.
The first question is, where? Actually that wasn't too hard, because we have a hidden jewel in our neighbourhood, the Neilson Park Creative Centre. And would you believe, they are interested in working with us just as we are interested in working with them.
So we booked it, six months in advance.
Now, since I was nervous about "success", I stacked the deck with two published poets, Doyali Islam and John Terpstra (pictured on this page). But after I'd done that, it actually got scarier - what these "real" poets give up their time and nobody comes to hear them?
But people came.
So now all these people are in the room, and they are actually signing up to share their poetry! What will they read? Will they embarrass us? Yikes, there are children here!
They read their poetry. And their verse shared pieces of their stories. Doyali read about her mother making bhater mondo:
my mother used to make little rice balls for me ...
in fourteen perfect globular mouthfuls
she fed me her story, and uncooked dreams...
the world of sacrifice between her hands.
This went on for over two hours! All poetry! Children as young as twelve sharing their poems! Teenagers sharing their hearts! Women and men!
And we heard one another.
John Terstra read to us from his poem, Vocation:
Much of that three-minute music
was forgettable, although I have not forgotten it.
In between were songs that made the wait worthwhile.
And they all shared in that free articulation of feeling.
Someone said it was a "spiritual" event. Well, you never know where the Spirit is going to show up, do you? But we believe the Spirit is just as likely to come to an art gallery as a church building -- don't we?
The attendees' comments afterwards all pointed to the fact that it was a safe place to share and be heard. "Inspiring and encouraging," wrote one. Someone else said what they appreciated: "the event (was) warm enough that someone you can tell is frightened ends up on stage, excited to share."
Our former paster John T put it this way after the event: "Actually, poetry is very much a traditional part of the communities of God's people and utterly integral to expressing worship and dealing with the complexities of life. Poetry is an art form that expresses the deepest things of God and us in communion with him and with one another. The poetry we enjoyed last Sunday, like all good poetry, opens up the heart to layered truths and to the mature reflection we so vitally need as we make our way through life. The event was a fine gift to all who attended."
Thanks to all who attended, especially to Debbie, Doyali and John. A special thanks to Lindsey for the graphics, Paul M. for the posters, Nel and Bill for envisioning and planning the event. The rest of you, get your verse on paper for the next open mic session!