Giving students the mic

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Graphic by Spencer Light | The Broadside (Contact: slight@cocc.edu)

By Emma Kaohi | The Broadside (Contact: ekaohi@cocc.edu)

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Wickiup Hall was packed on April 19 as poets and performers presented their original or recited work in an open mic night.

Founded by the American Academy of Poets, National Poetry Month calls attention to: Encouraging reading of poems, assisting teachers to bring poetry into classrooms, increasing the media’s attention on poetry nationally and locally, encouraging increased publication and distribution of poetry, and encouraging support for poets and poetry.

“Poetry engages the heart and mind, leads to better understanding of ourselves and others, and makes us feel connected.  For me, poetry makes me step back from day-to-day life and be more reflective about things that have meaning to me,” Patricia Givens, interlibrary loan coordinator said. “The Barber Library wanted to celebrate Poetry Month with a wide variety of activities, including an event specifically geared towards students.  The Open Mic provided an opportunity for students to express their creative talents in a safe and welcoming environment.”

Sponsored by the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College, those who participated were given gift cards to local coffee shops and entered in a drawing to win one of three HydroFlasks, acknowledging that performing in front of others can be challenging. Many participants shared original pieces of work, which shared a lot of their personal life with the audience.

“Performing in front of others is a generous act. By sharing insights, experiences and talents with others, they enrich the lives of others.  At the same time, performers are coming out of the shadows and letting the world know their private thoughts and feelings. It takes courage, but it is very rewarding,” Givens said about the challenge of performing in front of a crowd.  “I will never forget a heartbreaking poem written by one of our student veterans. It was an emotional —– and exciting— evening for me. I am very grateful to everyone who participated,” Givens said.

First-year student Natalia Katz performed a few of her original songs at the open mic. Katz began writing poetry as a means of escape, which then transformed into the lyrics in her songs. She explained that to her, poetry is a backwards take at the English language and a mix of abstract, different and colorful concepts. By writing her music, Katz was able to connect with her family and friends more as they were able to be more understanding.

“I used to think my struggle was all my own, that I was alone… I used to think it was just me and I would isolate, mentally, and say ‘no one would understand.’ I’ve realized from being open and honest, people have related and connected and I’ve helped people feel less alone when I share my art,” Katz explained.

Although this was the first time Givens and the Barber Library’s staff hosted the open mic night, Givens expressed that there is hope that it will continue in the future, with people already asking her when the next one will be held.

Until National Poetry Month rolls around again next year, students interested in open mic nights can attend the Astro Lounge open-mic on Monday nights, or on Wednesday nights, at The Lot and M&J Tavern. 

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