President’s note: This month, we are so fortunate to have the words of wisdom from MC and open mic organizer extraordinaire, Patrick Meade. Patrick most recently won a poetry competition organized by the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. In this blog, Patrick reflects on the experience and value of reciting poetry before an open mic:
You will never get me up there. I once had those thoughts while watching speakers at an open mic poetry session. For some people, standing in front of others can be quite unnerving. But to stand in front of others and tell them how you feel, well, that is another world of turmoil unto itself. And that turmoil comes from within us. We are all spun of different impulses, ideas and talents. Most times we feel quite relaxed sitting around displaying those characteristics amongst friends. The back and forth ease of conversation seems never to be a concern. But once we are asked to come and speak in front of an audience that is when a volcano of nerves starts to murmur. Sometimes erupts. And as that lava starts to bubble and ooze it can cause our voices to crumble, our ideas to run away, our thoughts to be swallowed by the flow. Why is that? It is very normal I would think to have these uncomfortable moments happen to us. The idea of being monitored, assessed, or graded front and centre on the podium can shred the most vibrant orchid, strip it down to strands of pulpish fibre. And in those situations when we shudder, is it because we think we are being judged? Maybe we are but that should not keep us away from who we are. Certain thoughts crash about inside us: what will they think of my material? But more importantly it is what we think of our own creations. Other feelings may rush through as we wonder if we can defend our thoughts, our words. In time we can and will. But if we falter that is okay. To falter is human.
Yes it takes time and practice to get up and recite poetry at an open mic. The practice may create buckets of sweat and a head full of stress. I, too, have stood in those shoes where my socks were so soaked that puddles were gathering on the floor. And all I could think was: I hope they realize that it is sweat running all about down there! Over time, of course, I became more comfortable when I spoke about something that I was familiar with. We all have memories and moments. We have all lived each and every one of them. A scar, a smile, a hug, a wish, a bouquet of kindness. If we can tell those moments and we do so amongst friends, why can’t we retell the same memories and thoughts via a poem or story in front of an audience? We can. I believe through practice and knowing our material, we become more confident, more alive. It will take some trials but as you get more comfortable at an open mic, you will find your voice, embrace your work and notice that the volcanoes of stress have gone to sleep. And that the pearls of art, of your love of poetry and narrative, are stirring. And, as a result, you’ll be eager to head back to that open mic the next time.