High on Poetry — Readings & Open Mic Nights in the Core

Andy Rojas reading at Shantytown. Photo by Katie Shelton

This morning, in Jacksonville, Florida, of all places, I am high on poetry.

I am at my desk at my day job, doing all right at pretending to be “all here” if I do say so myself, but I’m running on two hours of sleep, having stayed at Shantytown last night until bar close for Kathleen Shelton and Charlie Shuck’s first poetry night at the Springfield dive bar. A term, “dive bar,” that I use with an incredible amount of affection, by the way.

There’s a significant amount to report on, poetically speaking, a slow-moving sense of gravity pulling the writers of this city out of their reclusive writer-shells. Some of us are professionals, career writers with published works and established CVs; some of us scribble in tattered notebooks at bus stops. Most of us drive shitty cars, if at all.

I personally fit somewhere in the middle of our Venn diagram: lower class and kinda educated but mostly auto-didactically; I’ve been published here and there but I wouldn’t have labeled myself as a poet even though objectively speaking I must be, having hosted open mics for four years already.

But then I feel like most of us poets would be slow to label ourselves as such. A funny phenomenon but one I’m glad for as there’s a strain of humility that runs through this current batch of Duval poets. The writers I’ve come to know are earnest and genuine; warm and welcoming. Even though our events are usually held in bars, the gathered audiences tend to radiate respect. It helps that there are legitimately great poets in town that regularly share their work; it helps that the people with actual real talent tend to be community leaders that willingly share their time and abilities with our city’s youth. Respect comes easy and flies free.

Ah, this morning I am high on poetry, and I know that I will continually be as long as there are those courageous enough to be vulnerable before an audience, as long as there are those who write the words that string us all together.

It bears noting that I am supposed to be plugging the upcoming poetry night I am hosting at Coniferous Cafe downtown on June 14th, but there are several established poetry/spoken word events in town that would love your support:

The Cypher Open Mic Poetry & Soul
Thursdays at Da Real Ting Cafe
128-2 W Adams St
Jacksonville, Florida, FL 32202

Prose Be!
Sundays at Hourglass Pub
345 E Bay St
Jacksonville, Florida 32202

Late Nite Open Mic
Mondays at Nighthawks
2952 Roosevelt Blvd
Jacksonville, Florida, FL 32205

Bards & Brews
(in between locations at the moment but still very active)

Poetry Night @ Coniferous Cafe
2nd and 4th Wednesdays at Coniferous Cafe
42 West Monroe St.
Jacksonville, Florida, FL 32202

Keri Foster is a Jacksonville native who is content to let the winds of change gently alter everything. Some of the hats she wears are mother, audiophile, open mic host, serial college drop out, unrepentantly optimistic nihilist.

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