The Transformative Experience of an Open Mic

Spooky Themed Open Mic

On a Friday before Halloween, I participated in a Queer Open Mic where we read short stories and poems under the Spooky theme. Although, the theme was open to encompass anything dark or grim, not necessarily horror. And this was only my second Open Mic event that I attended — the first was 3 or 4 years ago, in which I was a trembling, anxious mess.

In this event, I read out 7 of my (yet unpublished) poems which I wrote while processing a trauma. This poetry was extremely personal, and I should’ve been too nervous to share these. But there was something about the environment and the audience, a safe space that allowed me to read without any anxiety. For that, I am grateful for those that actively create queer safe spaces and all the audience and participants.

Outside a Social Vacuum

The open mic was an incredible experience. Yes, partly it’s the boost in self-confidence, in realising that I am able to read my poetry comfortably, regardless of how deep & personal the poems are. But there is more to it than that: the social aspect.

For so long, when I posted my poems online, the interaction has been minimal – hundreds of poems are posted every day for free for anyone to read. And I am not the only who experiences this; I have seen hundreds of talented poets get almost no interaction or recognition for their incredible work. There is a lack of human connection, which unfortunately separates the artist from the audience. There is a coldness to the web pages that display our texts (yes, ironically I am posting this online).

In contrast, having a live audience is innately a much warmer experience. As soon as the readings were over, I put an olive in my mouth & one of the other readers came to talk to me – while my tongue was playing around with the olive pit. It’s one of those things that in most scenarios, it would be awkward, but this time it was hilarious. An odd but grounded way to start a conversation, in which we discussed poetry and got to know each other briefly, before both of us had to leave.

Opening Doors to Future Events

Despite my original feelings of hesitations, I am proud that I disregarded my anxieties and attended the open mic. I would describe the overall experience as transformative. I have built new connections with other like-minded, queer writers. I have opened a door to myself to attend future open mics and workshops. One positive experience has made me eager and incredibly motivated to interact with other local writers, something I have always avoided.

And that motivation pours over into the personal motivation, with an additional reason to write and polish my poems. As I am inclined towards growth, I am re-engaging finally in writing and reading. This post is proof in itself, as it had been a while since I had the focus and motivation to sit down and write down my thoughts, and then share them.

Rediscovering the Balance between Privacy and Art

Artistic expression is inherently a personal expression, whether personal, political, or otherwise. In my case, poetry tends to be mostly reflective of real experiences I had. Due to this, when does poetry become too personal to share? In all honesty, I am still trying to discover that for myself. Writing without any inhibition is necessary, so I would not write for the audience, but primarily for the self. However, without sharing any of it, I find myself demotivated.

There are two healthy approaches that I am experimenting with. The first, is to share in safe spaces, like this open mic I participated in. And it’s all verbal and at best stored in our minds, but not anywhere accessible (unless you can read minds). The second, is to stray away from pure realism and allude to experiences that might or might not have happened. In this sense, I would express the emotions but not quite tell the exact story; which then, although trusted by the reader, also provides a thin protection for me as a person from others. Overall, it’s a quite tough balance to strike, but I look forward to use these experiences to motivate me to further engage in writing and related events.

One thought on “The Transformative Experience of an Open Mic

  1. Ooh, that’s pretty brave of you to try out your work at an open mic, but yeah, at the end of it all, writing is a type of performance, and it’d be a waste not to share that with people. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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