WSU Tri-Cities


May 3
June 7
July 5
August 2

With co-hosts: Laura Walker Jacobs and Irene Hays

7:30 p.m.
East Auditorium

Part of the Summer 2011 Liberal Arts Season of Events

Open mic poetry at WSU Tri-Cities

The First Tuesday of May, June and July at 7:30 p.m. in the East Building Auditorium. FREE ADMISSION!

We look forward to as many people as possible participating in our open mics as poets reading their original work, as interested listeners and poetry supporters from the community as well as from our students, and as featured poets.

An open mic is an opportunity for poets to try out new works and get an immediate response (normally applause as well as appropriate laughs or gasps or sighs). People become “regular” attendees at such events (if they remember to note the schedule on their calendars) and are interested, supportive, receptive, and open to the variety of poems and poets. Shy people overcome their shyness and seasoned readers test their revisions and changes before sending out their poems. We have had many accomplished, much-published poets read along with novices.

How it works

A short time after people begin to arrive, a sign-up sheet is passed around and poets who want to read work write their names (and poets and spectators are asked to give us e-mail addresses as well so that we may send reminders and announcements about poetry or literary events on campus). The host of the open mic then explains the rules and calls the poets up to read in the order their names are listed. After each poet has read, the list is repeated for a second round of readings. Depending on how many poets have signed up, poets should prepare for two or three rounds.

There is a standing microphone we ask readers use since it is a large room and some listeners may have difficulty hearing if the poets do not use the microphone or wander around the stage. Next to the microphone will be a lectern for your manuscript or book while you read. There is no expectation that poets have memorized the poems they recite or that they must read from a printed page; that is up to the poets (we have poets who prefer to read from their cell-phones and laptops instead of paper). We have had performance poets and hiphop poets, cowboy poets, rhyming or free verse poets, even chanting poets. We had poets who are in their eighties, fifth graders, WSU students of all ages, and people of all backgrounds and interests as both poets and supporters.

Rules and Open Mic “etiquette”

Here we do not mean how to write villanelles or Petrarchan sonnets, but instead how to provide a good experience for everyone, be fair, and allow as many poets to read as time allows.

  1. Arrive on time and stay until the end. It is disruptive (and rude) to come into the auditorium while other poets are reading, try to find the sign-up sheet, and then to leave after reading your work. Stay through the reading and support the other poets.
  2. Read one poem per round with a page limit of 1.5 pages. If you have a much longer poem, save it for your book or break it up into 1.5 page sections. At every reading there are poets who quarrel with this rule and bring a notbook of poems but this is not a single-author venue. Do not pretend to agree to these limitations and then announce that you are going to read three poems (we have had especially rude poets say they were going to read three poems in a row because they are not staying!). If this happens, the open mic host will try to stop the poet after one poem.
  3. Try just to read the poem without long prefatory remarks about the circumstances of the writing or what you were trying to do or how this fits into your longer collection; just read the poem clearly and in an unrushed way. Do not provide your life story. Do not prejudice the reception of the poem by saying that you just dashed it off while waiting for your turn to read or that it is your very first attempt at writing a poem. Once you are up at the lectern, do not flip through your collected poems searching for a particular poem or changing your mind after beginning. You must have your poem ready before taking the stage.
  4. Practice reading your poem aloud before the open mic event. Don’t select poems that are visual, require music, require specialized knowledge and footnotes, or that contain words you have difficulty saying. Remember the audience is listening and trying to comprehend; don’t make choices that make that more difficult.
  5. This should be obvious but must be mentioned: poets and supporters should turn off cell-phones and not make or receive phone calls during the open mic. Do not have conversations while a poet is reading. Listen with the same interest and attention to other poets you would like the audience to give to your poems.
  6. All poems are to be the original work of the reader; do not recite your favorite Tennyson or Dickinson. There are other appropriate places for recitation; this venue is for listening to works by the authors of those works. Works by famous poets are welcome as long as they are read by the original poets!
Contact (509) 372-7217
Washington State University Tri-Cities, 2710 University Drive, Richland, WA 99354-1671 USA