By Cory A. Thompson – Asst. Arts and Features Editor – [email protected]
The first poet, a lanky vagabond from Vermont, rattled on for about an hour. He performed his final poem in a British accent and when he finished, he placed the microphone down onto the empty stage and scanned the audience.
With the stage lights off and the house lights on, Malachi Achilles, the out-of-town poet, watched the well-lit faces of the 30 audience members stare back at him. Someone coughed. Achilles inched his way toward the stage stairs and stopped.
“If no one else has anything to share,” Achilles said. “I’ve got a few more.”
The audience shifted in their seats. The microphone sat on the stage. In the back, a student who had taken up knitting around the time of the first dialect poem put down her needles and exhaled powerfully. Next to her, a girl furrowed her eyebrows and shifted her gaze from her friend to the door. Achilles reached for the microphone which had began to roll across the stage.
A new arrival to the Grotto leapt to their feet.
“Do we have a host, or are the inmates running the asylum?” Achilles shrugged.
An audience member said, “There is no host. This is the most open mic.”
When Lamar Hylton, director of the UNC Asheville multicultural center, reserved space in the Highsmith Union Grotto for Friday’s poetry slam, he neglected to find a host for the event. He also failed to contact UNCA’s slam poetry club Rock(y) The Mic, a student organization to which Makeda Sandford and Bryan Head belong.
“I really didn’t appreciate that they didn’t tell us,” Sandford said. “If they didn’t want to host the event, the least they could do is hand it off to someone else. After all, everyone knows Colette and Aaron.”
Colette Heiser and Aaron Kreizman, the two leaders of Rock(y) the Mic, did not attend Friday’s slam. Heiser, who opened for keynote speaker Marc Bamuthi Joseph, said she did not know about the slam till two days from the event.
“I wish we had known about it in advance,” Heiser said.
Before performing, Head gave the audience a synopsis of the spoken word club.
“Rock(y) the Mic meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the student org suite,” said Head. “We meet there and geek out about literature and poetry and it’s a lot of fun. There’s also free food. That’s why I go.”
After a reluctant audience member stepped up to host the event, a sign-in sheet made rounds through the potential poets and the event proceeded. The participation, excitement and viewership did not match the events put on by Rock(y) the Mic, according to Sandford.
“The slam we put on last semester was massive,” Sandford said. “It was nothing like this.”
Erik Gregori, 21, a visiting poet from New York, said the event met all his expections.
“I’ve never read my poems on stage like this,” Gregori said. “I go back and forth between love, god and socially-conscious stuff. Reading poetry is a great way to be truly awake.”