The longest-running open mic in the Triangle surely owes its place in the record books both to the devotion of regulars and to the writerly triumvirate that runs it: three women with diverse writing styles, preternatural organizational skills, and a level of sass to which I aspire.
This week, I was invited—along with a fellow poet and former cohost of my own erstwhile open mic—to give a 30-minute reading/event. The event part being that we were to talk a bit, at least vaguely instructively, about spoken word and performance poetry.
Amazingly flattering promotion notwithstanding, I’m no teacher or workshop leader, and I don’t feel qualified to play at being one even for a half hour—especially when the audience included at least one person who does this professionally.
So we agreed to keep the holding-forth to a minimum and just do more poems. And in that respect, it went well—two duets and a total of three individual poems for a poetry-to-babble ratio of no less than 5:1.
The venue, Stars Theater, is one of those quirky-wonderful community arts centers that smells like lead paint and velvet and creaks with creative spirit. The main stage was set for rehearsals of Steel Magnolias, so rather than squeeze the mic stand in between hair salon chairs, they relocated us to an upper space complete with Dr. Seuss posters from the set of a past summer’s musical.
Have I mentioned that open mic venues are almost always at least a little bizarre?
The assembled audience was utterly unfazed—our mental rooms being equally oddball, I suppose—and commenced to moving the assorted chairs, the stage itself, and the microphone to the other side of the space upon declaration by the hostesses that this needed done.
During the open mic that followed our vaguely educational performance, the readings varied from a quiet remembrance on a suitcase to a kinky flash fiction piece, read in one long sentence, that left me breathless just listening.
The night falling so close to Valentine’s, other writers brought love poems of various kinds, including titles like “don’t even think it” and “bondage.”
The lead hostess, the inimitable Jan B Parker, gives no quarter to friends or regulars when the timer hits 5 minutes but does it with the sugared grace of Eartha Kitt. And everyone admires and appreciates her all the more for it.
She closed the night with her own sexy brand of fiction and we said our good-nights, tucking arms into fat coats against the unseasonable North Carolina cold.
Bottom line: If you’re in the Triangle on the third Thursday of any month, looking for inspiration, titillation, and gentility, you can be just about guaranteed to find it where NC 55 and 401 cross paths in Fuquay-Varina.
Give the doyennes a hug for me.