Excitement and the smell of freshly-brewed coffee hung thick in the air. Small groups of students and poets stood talking and sipping from paper and plastic cups, exchanging lines of poetry and warm hugs. Once a month, students and professionals alike gather for a few hours to share their poetry and renew friendships.
For Jayrod Garrett, recent WSU graduate in creative writing, reading and writing poetry is more than just a hobby, it’s his life. Garrett runs an open mic poetry event on every third Tuesday of the month at Grounds for Coffee on 25th Street.
Starting at 8 p.m., Garrett welcomes visitors, suggests a few writing prompts and introduces the evening’s featured guests who are usually local poets. Guests are given a half an hour to mingle and write poetry. After that, the featured artists open the open mic session.
This past week, two local poets, both WSU professors, were featured as part of the monthly open mic session. Janine Joseph, associate professor of English, and Laura Stott, professor of English, both currently teach creative writing and poetry at WSU and have recently or will soon be publishing their work.
Garrett said students should attend events like this so they can deepen and enrich their own writing reservoir. Doing this helps students become interesting writers.
“If they want to create their own art or their own poetry, you can’t do that without a rich reservoir to draw from,” Garrett said. “Coming to events like this gives students that reservoir . . . As you gain more experience and read more poetry, or listen to more poetry, you start to gain an understanding of how you can create poems of your own.“
Joseph said that, as an undergraduate, she and her poetic friends would go to all sorts of open mic events. For her, open mic events were opportunities to share her work and hear the work of her peers. Open mic events also helped Joseph develop her own style and strengthen her writing craft.
Joseph encouraged students to attend open mic events, noting that there is much to be learned from the experience. By reading their work out loud, students learn to hear the ways of making their writing better. This also helps students learn to be brave and share their work with others. Joseph said that reading at open mic events gives students confidence in their writing abilities.
“I think it teaches them about how important community is, especially a writing community,” Joseph said. “I have a lot of really dear friends from my time as an undergraduate and we would do events like this . . . When you eventually graduate, you need that continued support and this is the kind of place to learn that.”
Stott agrees with Joseph. She said going to open mic nights can not only help students network and hone their writing craft, but can also help students come up with new ideas.
“I tell my students to always carry around a journal and write stuff down, because there’s so much detail and material everywhere we go,” Stott said.
Stott said writing poetry is a therapeutic activity and helps her be better balanced and find joy in her life.
“When I am not writing poems, I don’t feel like myself,” Stott said. “I love language and I love words. I feel like it’s a way to celebrate life and choose happiness.”
Garret highly encouraged all students to attend events like this open mic session. He said that poetry can let students unwind and relax from the stress and anxiety of school.
“So often we get caught up in the rush of everything,” Garrett said. “We’re on our cell phones all day, we’re sitting in class, cramming for tests. One beautiful thing about poetry (that is) like music, is it gives the listener the opportunity to relax and go to a new space of thought.”