Out in the Community
Last night, I went to the open mike at Kollective coffee house in Hot Springs. Billed as the longest running open mike in the USA—it has existed for well over a thousand Wednesday evenings.
Normally, at home, I probably wouldn’t go. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time listening to poetry—often big groups. But here I wanted to see the Hot Springs scene.
The line-up was excellent, and very diverse. I knew I wasn’t in Santa Fe anymore when folks read about crashing a Confederate rally and some awkward confrontations with Jesus. And some poets just passing through on spring break. The headliners were from New Wave, a group of young African-American performance poets from Little Rock. Local favorites, they pulled off a strong combo of rap rhyme and personal vulnerability. Plus, an emphasis on collaboration and community. They got a standing ovation.
The MC did a special job—giving each reader a bit of recall and praise. I was touched to read about my experiences here, and get to plug the artists-in-residence program with the park. Some local folk had invited me and we sat and chatted—about moving to Santa Fe!
Santa Fe poetry’s scene can appear diverse in terms of people, but it has a shared aesthetic. Not everyone fits, but I’d summarize it as—emotionally open, imagistic, leaping poetry…and Pablo Neruda is God. It has one of my favorite audiences anywhere—with audible sighs of appreciation, oohs and aahs as if we were at a fireworks display.
But what I enjoyed in Hot Springs was just a deep level of acceptance for approach. However, a word of caution for the beginner. It seems that many people start off by writing about personal pain—the pain of isolation, and of romantic failure. Nothing wrong with this, but it isn’t enough. Even your pain at social injustice doesn’t completely do it. The world is a big place, and it has a lot more than you or me in it. Try and find that.
Hats off to the longest running open mike in a town that is also a national park!