Pic of the Week.

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.

Last week, I finally got back into a regular routine of participating in an open mic night. But, my journey to the mic has been an interesting one.

When I was in college, I was on a mission to get a degree in journalism. But after applying to my university’s journalism school twice, and getting rejected, I took my advisor’s suggestion at going for a degree in English.

I was terrified that I’d be thrown into a curriculum with a slew of beret-wearing beatniks, and really, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to fit in. Once I got accepting into the English college, I was able to start taking upper-level courses and my first one was literary criticism.

While no one in my class was wearing a beret, I felt pretty out of place when, on the first day, we were asked to go around the room, introduce ourselves, and say what our favorite movies were. Most of the movies my classmates said were ones I’d never heard of or seen, or just didn’t like, such as Clockwork Orange.

My favorite movie? Home Alone. I could feel them cringe at me. Me, the sorority girl, relationship columnist, who likes John Hughes’ movies. Standard.

The textbook for the class, Critical Theory Since Plato by Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle, was a whopping 1,545 pages, and I carried it with me everywhere, using highlighters and Post-It notes to help weed through a jumble of words I didn’t understand without my barista-dubbed beverage, “A Sugar Rush” (Venti-iced-black-and-white-mocha-extra shot).

Even though I really struggled in that class, it was the only class in college that I felt that way. Since then, I’ve grown to really appreciate the education I received, and the students I met along the way.

It had been awhile since I’d surrounded myself with people so creative, I almost didn’t get it, until I was on assignment for a freelance job. I was working on a story about a local open mic night.

I was blown away by their performances.

And when my assignment was over, I kept going back. After attending several times, but not participating, I decided to give it a try. Most of the people at the open mic performed spoken word, often memorized.

I hadn’t written poetry since high school, and I was nervous about what the other participants might think. I didn’t want to disrespect their space by saying something shitty.

I was nervous as hell the first time I got up there, but it felt so good to be welcomed and received by such a creative and talented group of people. These are people that have won titles for their craft. It still blows me away.

Since my first time on the mic, I’ve written and read maybe a dozen poems. I also got to judge the All-City Teen poetry slam (a night that nearly brought me to tears due to the level of talent) and I had the honor of meeting and interviewing one of the best poets in the world, Denice Frohman.

No, seriously she won the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2013 for her amazing, chilling piece, “Dear Straight People,” but I also love this one:

Tuesday night, I joined my fellow creatives, for the Baton Rouge Poetry Alliance open mic. In the picture, you see the tools of my trade:

  • My iPad, where I write my poetry, ’cause I’m techie like that
  • My wallet, because there’s a cover charge and I like to drink
  • My compact, so I don’t look shiny on stage
  • My drink, a vodka and soda, because I could always use liquid courage

And so, I continue to believe that I’m just someone who is obsessed with everything dealing with words, and I’ve got so many things inside of me to say, that I’ll find anyplace to share it. My journey at the open mic still has a long way to go—I’m trying to memorize a piece so that I can participate in the slam.

And I’m still learning how to write a great poem; but it really helps to be surrounded by people who don’t judge me; people who encourage me; and most importantly, inspire me to write…forever.

The obvious truth, since it is quickly and easily seized, delights us and passes into the memory. But in order that, acquired by toil, it should be more pleasing and for that reason the better retained, the poets concealed it under many things that are not, apparently in accord therewith. They chose fables rather than any other disguise, because the beauties thereof attract those whom neither philosophic demonstrations nor persuasions are able to draw. What shall we say then, of poets?

—Giovanni Boccaccio, Life of Dante


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