Words matter. Poetry has the power to save and change lives. I have been fortunate enough to attend several open mic nights in the Topeka area, and through that, have come across one of the most supportive communities I have ever seen.
Poetry can be anything. I cannot emphasize this enough. It does not have to rhyme and there is no reason to be intimidated by word choice or meter. When I say anything, I mean anything. It could be a rant about how your next door neighbor hosts really loud parties on a school night, a love letter, a traditional and well-crafted sonnet, your struggles with mental health or even your grocery list.
It takes some bravery to get up in front of people, usually strangers, and share your writing. However, I have found there is nothing more therapeutic in the world than sharing your thoughts, and maybe even some secrets with the world, only to receive applause each and every time.
I first attended an open mic because I received an invite on Facebook to an event. I stumbled up in front of the microphone and basically whispered some bizarre poem about astrology. My voice shook and I couldn’t make any eye-contact with the audience, but I still received loud applause. This was the beginning of my career of sorts as a poet. You have to push yourself and simply get up there and speak.
I am now proud to say I have a small chapbook of poems published by a friend’s LLC. It feels empowering to be able to go to open mic nights and read from a collection of my own writing. No matter the length or quality. I’ll be honest though and admit I am an English major, so poetry is kind of what I wanted to do anyway. However, I really want to express that poetry is for everyone. It is not exculsively old British men from the 19th century. It is not elitist or snobbish. It is inclusive and community-based.
I have only been to events in Topeka, at places such as NOTO Burrito, PT’s on College Hill, The Wheelbarrel, The Jayhawk Theatre and a few through Sigma Tau Delta at Carole Chapel. There are plenty of events outside of Topeka as well, including competitive slam poetry in Lawrence and Kansas City. The point is, there are plenty of opportunities to express yourself and share your writing with a supporitve community.
Some of my closest and longest friendships have come through poetry and open mic nights. I would be a lot less connected and have far fewer people to talk to without the presence of poetry in my life. The sense of compassion and mutual understanding that often shines through at readings is invaulable. Even if you do not consider yourself a writer, poet or artist, I would highly recommend that anyone, regardless of your major, attend a few open mic nights. The culture and environment can only serve to improve one’s appreciation of the arts and of life. Poetry can really change your life for the better and expand your horizons.