Open BookApril 23rd, 2012 by Alison Jean Ash
Reading aloud is the best way I know to find the clogged places in a story’s flow, or identify awkward bits of dialogue. Writing teachers urge us to test our work thus, especially poetry, and I’ve always endorsed the idea. I just never got around to doing it—until last fall.
My favorite local café used to be Olympic Coffee. It wasn’t the most comfortable of Bremerton’s cafes, nor did it have the best coffee, but it had a certain spirit, and it stayed open late. It even hosted an open mic for a while. Musicians dominated, but there were poets too, including my husband.
The garage bands killed it. Desperate for any venue, they packed the place with their friends, few of whom bought anything. Their presence meant decreased, not increased, revenue for the struggling café, the mob in the doorway discouraging customers. The owner sold up and moved away; subsequent owners cut back evening hours, and last year, to our sorrow, Olympic closed its doors forever.
By then we’d begun attending an open mic in Silverdale, where we heard virtuoso guitar, covers of Van Morrison and original work from the moody and poetic to earnest songs about Jesus. There were no poets, but the audience seemed kindly, and my husband soon stepped up. His Quark Sonnets were well received, as were readings from Poe, Yeats and Sylvia Plath. Hearing him read every other week, I grew jealous. Lately I’d been writing short stories, some within the ten-minute performance limit, and I too began to sign up and read.
Facing an audience presumably more critical than young children (my past auditors), and with my own work, was terrifying; at first I required a glass of wine to fortify me. But I found my work improving, and in time performing became easier, and even fun.
Some audiences have small tolerance for readings, so we didn’t sign up in adjacent slots but sandwiched ourselves between musical acts. The audience seemed to enjoy hearing us but, we gradually realized, one organizer-emcee did not. It was little things at first: a word here, a grimace there, a suggestion that there wasn’t time for me to read, but still time for a singer—this when we’d rigorously kept our readings under ten minutes, often less than five.
One evening the emcees urged performers, rather pointedly, to “read the rules before you sign up,” and we discovered that while the musicians’ ten minute limit was unchanged, readers were now restricted to five minutes. We got the message.
We’ve missed performing our work, and we’d like to hear other writers. So we’re starting a new open mic—or, since there will be no sound system, “an open (no) mic” specifically for readings. It begins May 16 and will run twice a month. Please attend, whether to read or to listen, and please spread the word.
OPEN BOOK: an open (no) mic for writers & readers
7:30 ~ 9:30 pm
1st & 3rd Wednesday each month
at the East Bremerton Starbucks
7034 Hway 303 & NE Bentley Road
Local writers of poetry and prose are invited to read aloud up to 10 minutes of their own and/or others’ work in an intimate & receptive setting. We also welcome acoustic solo singer-songwriters. No bands, please. It’s a small space, with no sound system.
Please respect the mainstream family atmosphere of our host café by choosing works with an absence of: strong profanity; explicit sexual content; sexism, racism or hate speech of any kind; religious or political proselytizing or attacks on other groups.