Posted October 7, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Olympia People’s Mic

Weekly Open-Mic Offers A Voice To The Community

Last Thursday evening I ventured to the back room of Ben Moore’s Restaurant in Downtown Olympia. Past the dining tables was a hidden stage, paintings framed against brick-red walls, and a playlist of classic songs providing a laidback atmosphere. In front of neat rows of chairs stood the spotlight.

I had a chance to briefly speak with that night’s host, Kina Wolfenstein. A student at The Evergreen State College, Wolfenstein began writing at a young age in her hometown, Portland, OR. She attended her first poetry slam at age fifteen, and has gone on to represent Washington in the National Grand Slam Poetry Championships. I asked her what piece of advice she would give to upcoming writers. She responded, “write about the thing you’re afraid of.”

We are constantly facing fears, and it is important to find safe spaces where that courage is supported.

Pieces ranged from serious to humorous, from poetic realism to science-fiction prose; welcoming a diverse crowd of faces and voices. Each piece tells a different story, plunging listeners into rich memories and raw emotion.

The audience is encouraged to contribute by snapping, stomping or “mmm”ing when they hear lines that strike them. Capturing the essence of a poem is difficult, however it’s easy to relate to these lines, performed by Alex Loret De Mola and Joanne Rikimaru:

“Right now, we are still youth in discovery,” and “I want to be quenched with who I really am.”

De Mola declared, “Tell me a story I can grow old in,” which I believe is exactly what open mics like these are trying to accomplish.

In addition to welcoming anyone from the community, this weekly open mic features a guest performer. This week’s guest performer was Rebecca Shay from Seattle, WA. An incredible writer and spoken word poet, she has been involved in many poetry readings and performances, and has published her own chapbooks. Not only does she guide you into her world of words, but she also translates them through her body language. Her performance left me speechless, with cathartic goosebumps rising on my arms. In one of her poems, she shared,

“Anxiety cuts into my imperfections, and blames me for bleeding.”

Although writing is often captured on the page, or confined between quotation marks, the full experience of performance poetry cannot be synthesized in a short article. These stories come from people’s cores; the ability to share them honestly on stage is both mesmerizing and inspiring.

The organizers of Olympia People’s Mic, Old Growth Poetry Collective, was founded in Olympia in 2011. Since then it has brought writing to many venues throughout Cascadia, hosting poetry slams and workshops dedicated towards helping people find their voice and onstage presence. Meeting at Ben Moore’s Restaurant every Thursday at 6:30pm, the performance is open to all ages, performer or observer. It costs $3-7 to get in-a contribution which goes to Old Growth Poetry Collective to help fund this event and others like it.