Poetry in Jackson, MS is dying if not already dead. I say this not because the poets are gone. They are still here. It is the venues that have forsaken us writers. There is no consistency. Over the past few months I have observed a handful of Open Mic Poetry sets step on the scene with all fanfare only to fall flatter that a bottle of Sprite left open on the kitchen counter for days. It’s quite sad. One venue called Level 3, sent out Facebook invites to their new Poetic Justice open mic night back in April. I missed their opening night but I made a point to attend their next set. So the next week my man and I ventured to Level 3 only to be stopped by a woman with her hand out. She told us the cover was $15.
I was flabbergasted and expressed that I felt that was a bit much for an open mic. She quickly explained that there would be no poetry. They were having a fashion show. I haven’t been back since and I have no idea if they ever had poetry there again.
The lack of a venue with an established open mic in Jackson, MS hurts in several ways. Most importantly, artists have no common meeting place to gather to exchange smiles and interchange words. There is no place to express yourself on stage, to practice your delivery, or get feedback on a new piece. Sure you can post your poem on-line or email it to a friend, but there is nothing like being on the mic.
Last summer I was privileged to go on tour. While on the road, I met poets from all over that expressed interest in showcasing in Mississippi. These same poets still contact me from time to time inquiring about open mics in the Capitol City. Unfortunately, I am unable to direct them to a place to get their poem on. This becomes very expensive for poets on tour. Every state surrounding Mississippi has a pretty awesome Poetry scene. A poet on tour makes money by performing everywhere. If they have to drive through a state with nowhere to stop and perform they lose money. Gas is high. So what usually ends up happening is I have to coordinate a show myself. This is very expensive for me but I do it for the love of the art. I have to first find and rent a venue. Next I have a flyer created, pay my graphic designer, and then pay the poet for their feature. I usually lose money. If I’m lucky I break even.
So what can be done about this? Jackson needs poetry! I’m going crazy without it! The sporadic open mic poetry events are not enough. We need some consistency. I’m eager to hear your thoughts so please comment below.