101 How Poetry Can Save the World

Jen Stellato

stagefright.pngOver the course of this year, I have attended more than a few open mic nights held by the Poets and Writers of Plymouth State University. I suppose it could be called a cultural event. The open mic nights happen every month and for me, it is always something to look forward to. Occasionally, I will miss one and then kick myself later because that means I have to wait another whole month for the next. These events are located at Live Free and Dine, but their former location was Burrito Me.

It seemed when I was a Freshman, so many more people used to show up to these events and read. I don’t know if it’s because Burrito Me is so small in comparison to Live Free and Dine, or if there really is less people going to these events. I remember them feeling so much more crowded just a few years ago. I loved hearing everyone’s unique poetry and funny little anecdotes.

I had to go to a number of these open mic nights before I could muster up the courage to actually read my own work. I could never forget my first time either. There was something super scary and intimidating about the black microphone. For some reason, when I stood behind it, my knees began to knock. My palms were sweaty and I didn’t know the appropriate distance between my mouth and the microphone–too close, and you sound loud and muffled, too far and no one can hear you. And of course for my first time, I decided to read a rather lengthy short story I had written and it seemed to go on forever. I was relieved by the time it was over. But, my favorite thing abut these open mics is that after someone reads for their very first time, Liz Ahl will say, “I believe that’s the first time you’ve read with us,” and then the restaurant will erupt into extra-loud applause for you, because let’s face it: the public eye is scary and that’s a big accomplishment! But if the “public eye” contains our own eyes as well, why is it so frightening?

These open mics are a place for anyone and everyone to come together and share their stuff. You can go up and read anything you like. You could perform standup if you wanted; I’ve seen people perform songs they’ve written, some people go up and just simply tell stories off the top of their head. For this one night every month, it is a judgement-free zone where you can share even your deepest, darkest, most embarrassing poetry, and people will clap for you no matter what.

When I was reading The Ecological Thought by Timothy Morton, the part about Wall-E made me think about all of us people who come to these open mics: Wall-E happily shows that the “broken” software, the mental disorder of the little robot, is the viral code that reboots Earth”. I connected this to the poetry nights because, poetry has sometimes been painted as something we should hide and be embarrassed by. When you write a poem that has your heart and soul in it, your true self with all the layers peeled away revealing the inner most core, it might be hard to show the world. Your friends may find it in a page of one of your notebooks and jokingly make fun of you for it. But maybe our embarrassingly mushy poetry is our code that will restart the earth. By this I mean, maybe if we, as a human race, opened up more, and bore our souls to the world instead of hiding our inner most selves away, we could all be just a little more comfortable in our own skin. After all, humans are social beings, so what are we if we cannot be comfortable with ourselves within our own society? As Timothy Morton puts it, “Ecology shows us that all beings are connected. The ecological thought is the thinking of interconnectedness.” At the Open Mics, we use poetry as some kind of abstract tether, tying us all together for one night a month.

I don’t know exactly why I was so nervous the first time I read a short story at an open mic night. I think I was afraid that people might judge me. But, I eventually realized that the people who show up to these events are like-minded to me. We’re all just a bunch of weird little robots who come together once a month to share are inner-most coding: the code that makes up who we are. I’ve gone to quite a few open mics since my freshman year and I make it a point to read every time. I don’t shake anymore and my palms don’t get sweaty. In fact, I really enjoy sharing my little poems to anyone who cares to listen. The Open Mic Nights are a cultural event that “restart the earth” (or, my earth as I know it, at the very least) by letting our “social guards” fall down for a single night and allowing us to show our innermost selves.

P.S. Since it’s all English majors (that I know of) who will be reading my blog post, I urge you to come to the open mics! They’re a lot of fun. You can like the Poets and Writers of PSU on facebook to get updates on the events. The next one is April 30th!

Here’s PSU’s video for the Poet’s and Writers if you’d like to know more:



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Jen Stellato is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book