Interactive poetry night at Atkinson

Kyle Calbreath and Kyle Calbreath

Festive chatter arose from the settling audience and ambiance spread to the balcony that overlooked the luminous city at Open Mic Night on Feb. 9. White, economical chairs allowed for seating while meshing remarkably well with the art adorning the walls.

The event was a passionate success, as the Atkinson Gallery was filled with words of the past, present and personal happenings.

Chella Courington, English professor and the night’s host said people are always supportive at these events.

“It’s a pretty safe environment,” Courington said. “They know it takes a lot of energy to get up.”

The event was a vast mix of all ages of people who shared one thing in common: poetry. The night kicked off with the introduction of Santa Barbara Poet Laureate, Barry Spacks. With bulky glasses and long gray hair pulled back into a pony tail, Spacks read from pre-prepared notes on the life and times of Mary Oliver, to whom the night was dedicated.

As Spacks wrapped things up, the night stepped into four readings from selected Oliver poems. Local writer, Lois Klein recited the poem “The Summer Day,” from behind a green folder held in front of her.

The night took a turn for the best, when the audience was asked to gather into small groups and free-write for 10 minutes.

“If you are still writing just follow that thought, continue that thought,” said Courington as she passed around pencils and paper, encouraging the attendees to let their emotions lead them.

Only the scribbling of pencils on pages could be heard in the room as the participants etched their minds onto the page. Volunteers eagerly rose from their seats to spout off what they had written themselves or a selection from Mary Oliver.

City College student Parker Lau, a slam-poet wearing a fedora, recited a personal piece that he wrote. He wowed the crowd with words like, “Free your mind/ Stop/ Rewind” and “You can find God without religion.”

Toward the end of the night, Rod Smith, a smooth man, with a gentleman-like quality to his voice read a poem about a woman he once saw at a Starbucks. “You are a gorgeous lady,” he said…and more flirtatiously, “Pardon me whoever calls you baby/ You are a gorgeous lady.” The night ended with a buzz, floating on the recollection of words still ringing in their ears. Open Mic Poetry Night was a force on one magically involved Friday night.