Express Yourself: Attend an Open Mic

This weekend on the Central Coast there are three venues holding open mic readings: Hollister Open Mic Night, Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza II, and Poet/Speak Open Reading.

Beginning with limericks in fourth grade, it seems as though I’ve always written poetry. However, sharing my poetry with others is a different story. Like so many, I have journals, notepads, computer files filled with poems in many stages of completion, most of which have never reached another human being. Publication is one way to share our work, but have you considered attending an open mic?

Open mic readings have existed in every town and city I’ve passed through, and it was at an open mic where I seriously re-started crafting my poems after I woke up from a tumultuous marriage and divorce. (Oh, how life’s difficulties fuel the creative flow!) At an open mic, you can share your creative work while connecting with likeminded people.

This weekend on the Central Coast there are three venues holding open mic readings.  On Friday evening, January 18th, the Hollister Open Mic Night takes place at the Blak Sage Gallery of Fine Art, while in Santa Cruz, the Museum of Art and History will hold its Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza II. On Sunday, the Poet/Speak Open Reading will take place at the downtown Santa Cruz library. All three venues will have a sign-up sheet where you simply write down your name and then at the appropriate time take the stage! You can do it. You can be brave. And if not, why not simply go and listen? (Details for each venue can be found at the end of this post.)

I first attended an open mic because I was writing so many poems that I felt the need to connect with others in a way that spoke to art. So much of the time we have responsibilities: work, family, the bill that has to be paid, the closet that needs organizing. But what about the larger questions: why? why here? why now? how do we find happiness and fulfillment? Along with religion and spirituality, art touches on these questions and more. At an open mic, people share what matters, what’s funny, what’s more important than a reality show on cable TV. What’s shared depends on who shows up. Overwhelmingly, open mics are supportive open environments where people share what matters to them in some form of artistic expression: poetry, song, or story.

When I heard others share their poems, and felt the natural acceptance for creative expression by those in attendance, I figured I could do the same. And I did. I started writing poem after poem and going to open mics to share and listen to how my words came across. But also I met others who had the openness to share their work. Most open mic venues form a community. After a while, you get to know the people and they get to know you.

Joe Navarro hosts the Hollister Open Mic Night, which takes place once a month at the Blak Sage Fine Arts Gallery. The evening combines a featured poet with an open reading where anyone who would like to can share their work. I was fortunate to be the featured reader this past fall, and the event was simply warm, inviting, and a great pleasure. We all listened; we all heard; we all spoke. Some even sang songs and played guitar and flute. (See pictures at the end of this post.)

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza II follows up on last year’s event, which I attended and at which I read a poem at the open mic. This year there will be an hour poetry reading with a variety of featured readers, followed by an hour long open mic. I will be one of the featured readers along with David Swanger, the Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate, Robert Sward, Susan Freeman, and perhaps the Museum’s executive director, Nina Simon. The open mic will begin with a performance by Queen Jasmine and Brenda of the legendary Santa Cruz Slam accompanied by pianist Howard Wright. There will also be numerous poetry, writing, and book arts workshops throughout the evening.

And then on Sunday, the Poet/Speak Open Reading will take place at the downtown Santa Cruz library with Robin Lynse as the featured reader. Sign-ups begin at 2:00 pm sharp with a five minute time limit. Jim Russo hosts the event. This open mic has been held steadily on a monthly basis for years and has become a Santa Cruz standard. Whenever I’ve gone, the readers have been honest and true. Sometimes, they’re humorous. They’re always sincere. Poet/Speak is a very comfortable spot where  local poets share their work.

Read on for the details about each reading:


Hollister Open Mic Night

Friday, January 18, 2013

6:00 to 7:30 PM

Blak Sage Gallery of Fine Art

In association with the San Benito County Arts Council

727 San Benito Street

Hollister, CA 95023


Poetry, prose, music and song. Free style, prose poetry, sonnets, beat poetry, short stories, novels in progress, instrumental music or song. English, español or any other language welcome. Bring your own work or read someone else's; or just come and enjoy. Everyone welcome: adults, youth and children. But you must definitely bring an open mind.


Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza II

Friday, January 18, 2013

5:00 to 9:00 PM          .

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

705 Front Street

Santa Cruz, CA


$5 General Admission, $3 Student. Presented by a partnership of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History with Book Arts Santa Cruz and Poetry Santa Cruz.


Explore, learn and enjoy poetry and book arts. The evening will include readings, workshops, and displays, with a broad range and an accent on hands-on activities for all ages. Featuring Robert Sward, Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate David Swanger, Susan Freeman, Adela Najarro and hopefully Nina Simon followed by an open mic.


Poet/Speak Open Reading

Sunday, January 20, 2012

2:00–4:00 PM

Santa Cruz Main Library

upstairs Meeting Room

224 Church Street

Santa Cruz, CA


With featured reader Robin Lysne.  Open reading signup at 2:00 sharp, 3-to-5-minute limit.  Hosted by Jim Russo. Presented by Poetry Santa Cruz.

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