One of the perks of going to a university with a flourishing English department is having the opportunity to check out a variety of poetry readings and open mic performances.
The most recent event on March 30 closed out the Vermillion Literary Project (VLP) Writer’s Festival, a day of workshops led by award-winning writers and poetry readings. Hosted by spoken word poet and actor Devel Crisp, the event showcased many local poets, most of them USD students.
According to their website, “The VLP is the University of South Dakota’s only student literary and creative writing organization. The award-winning VLP publishes the U.’ s only student-produced literary journal and promotes all sorts of literary events…”
The audience included USD students and members of the community. It was incredibly encouraging and receptive to each poet’s performance.
Initially, only a handful of writers signed up to read, but as the night went on, many audience members found the courage to perform for the first time.
The warm atmosphere fostered the kind of openness and acceptance required for new artists to share their work. Crisp helped with that, beckoning quiet audience members onto the stage.
Held in the lower level of the Varsity Pub, writers congregated and shared stories. Although the upstairs area was full of the usual crowd of gregarious bar-goers, the open mic event had a completely different vibe.
With the crowd falling silent each time a poet started reading, it was almost reverent in contrast to the boisterous bar-goers above. Clinging to the performer’s every word, it seemed like the audience truly cared about what the poets had to say, drawing from them their best.
In a world where the main outlet for people’s thoughts and feelings is social media platforms, poetry open mic nights offer a break from the catchy slogans that dominate Twitter and Facebook posts and allow for a more personal and meaningful form of expression.
Hearing someone’s spoken word allows one to experience the poet’s innermost thoughts and opinions. And, on the flip side, performing one’s own poetry can be a beneficial and healing experience.
That’s why it’s so important to support these types of events and encourage poets to open up. Crisp stressed the importance of this, asking audience members to approach poets and offer praise or constructive criticisms.
“Please tell poets to keep poeting,” he said.
The evening ran the spectrum of subject matter with no topic off limits. The poems performed were about everything from sexuality to suicide, each one delivered with passion and vulnerability. The speakers presented a well-rounded picture of human experience and emotion.
The only downside of the event was that it was under-attended. Unfortunately, poetry slams aren’t exactly a common night out. I think that all students, and not just English majors, could benefit from a night of poetry.
If more young people embraced poetry events, their lives would be richer from the experience.