I have moved quite a bit in my life. Pushed things into garbage bags and backpacks and makeshift suitcases. I have traveled across the country to find my place on pages and stages and classrooms. With each move, I always gravitated toward the local open mics. Here is where I always found my people.
In Connecticut, just outside of Hartford, I went to a Wednesday open mic full of mostly musicians, and one other poet who was drenched in romanticism and spirituality. We gathered every week, mainly the same faces and occasionally a few new, curious ones. Eventually, we started collaborating. I was accompanied by a bassist, harpist, electric guitar player and percussion. If we had met in any other way, we’d barely notice each other. But music and poetry sewed us into this small cafe each week.
In Colorado, in a mountainous town called Boulder, I found an open mic in walking distance to my studio apartment on Folsom Street. I met a tall, illuminating man from Long Island and two young poets who later became my first friends there. We poem’d so hard and fierce, that we later collaborated our languages onto a much bigger stage in a theater. This is where I fell in love with a human who got me; this is where I saw the power of stretching arms and stanzas into performance; this is when I knew there was no back-up plan. I could be nothing else but a poet. But a performance artist. But this slinger of words.
Upon moving back to Brooklyn to start my graduate degree several years ago, I found myself searching again. I tried out a few in Brooklyn, then traveled underground toward Manhattan. I started to notice similar faces. The thing about poets is we tend to be shy before the poems come out. Once we unzip, we are animals. I found my zoo of NYC poets early on and have been howling with them ever since.
That Long Island poet who I met in Boulder (who became my mentor), told me: Aimee, make sure you pay it forward. I am paving the way for you and you must do the same for as many others as you can.
So, I search out the ones who move me and make space for them. More than that, I tell them how they impact me, because oftentimes we forget to say out loud how much these words and gestures mean.
Almost a year ago, I was approached to be part of something that incorporated all of my favorite things: poets creating a space for other writers to create. Founded by Megan DiBello, Poetry Teachers NYC is a collective of poets and creative humans offering affordable, creative writing workshops around New York City. We also host an array of performance events and open mics. Its been a journey and this road will continue. Today, some PTNYC poets can be found in Brooklyn (including the fantastic, experimental remix’r Daniel Dissinger) , burning up the Way Station stage. Next month, we can be found at the Dumbo Arts Festival. In October, we will be hosting a variety of workshops through Bowery Arts & Sciences. Sign up. It will be more than experience; it will be a disrobe to all the languages and poetics inside you.