Pink Wind and Horizontal Lightning: Open Mic Recap

Open Mic For Poets at Queens Central Library
89-11 Merrick Blvd, Jamaica, NY 11432
(718) 990-0700
Select Sundays, 2-4 pm (Call library for updated dates and times)
Hosted by Micah Eaton Zevin

“This was probably the greatest post-feature ‘chat’ I’ve attended. Here’s to ‘pink wind’ and ‘horizontal lightning.'” – Some guy in the front row, who showed up late

I’m still adjusting to the Staten Island time zone difference. But as of now, I realize the two hour travel time period I gave myself, when travelling from the Harlem area to Queens, won’t work for the forgotten borough.

I arrived super late for the Open Mic for Poets at Queens Central Library. The open mic was already over and the feature poet, Laurie Stone, had concluded her reading. When I walked in she was engaged in a fireside chat with the audience. (The fireplace was a podium.)

In a short amount of time–maybe 15 minutes of “I’m officially off the clock, but I’ll keep on going if you want”–Stone gave an impromptu writing workshop that could give a $20 Gotham Writers’ drop-in session a run for its money. The host, Micah, sums it up nicely in a single sentence: “Laurie Stone…sharing stories and imparting advice on craft.”

Speaking of sentences, Stone said the goal of one’s writing should be to make every sentence interesting. “What makes a sentence interesting?” she rhetorically added. There was also discussion about one’s focus not just being on what’s put in their writing, but also what’s left out. She corrected me on the origin of the writing advice quote “kill your darlings”; I thought it was from Stephen King, but it’s actually from Virginia Woolf.

Some poets huff and puff and get ready to blow up, if they don’t get a chance to get on. (Full Disclosure: In the past, I’ve been that poet.) However, when you come late not getting to go comes with the territory. As a regular attender of this open mic, I can assure you though that anyone who arrives on time definitely gets their *five minutes of fame (or infamy).

[*Note: Unless you’re Andy Warhol reincarnated, NO poet (that’s not a feature) should be up on stage at an open mic for even close to 15 minutes. Nor should a host let them. If your poem(s) total running time is longer than Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, you deserve the hook.]

Although I didn’t get a chance to perform a piece today, that’s fine; sometimes the Muse sends you to a place to read, so you can listen. As soon as I heard Stone say “hybrid writing,” it was worth the price of free admission (and the almost three hour trek from Staten Island). It’s a wonderful feeling when you don’t have the word for what it is you do, and someone tells you.

You know what? I should tell you that Stone said much more, but not tell you just yet what that much more is; it would create suspense, which Stone says is important. It’s also important to “be conscious of what you’re writing.” Stone said, it may start off subconsciously, as you’re “harvesting [and] gathering,” but then it becomes conscious as you put it into *form.

[Laurie Stone Writing Tip/Trick: Write the same thing in different forms–essay, journal entry, poem, etc..]

Imagine the form of two deer kissing. That’s what I did, as Stone described her time spent in the Arizona desert where you can find an ancient hieroglyph of two deer kissing. An open mic regular, Randy, mentioned to Stone that he’d “heard stories of people going to deserts in New Mexico to find spiritual reawakening.” Stone’s response was enlightening and educating: “There’s nothing there, so you fill it with whatever you’re looking for.” And New Mexico is high desert, while Arizona is low desert.

Stone spoke about being present in a “very alternative physical landscape,” and witnessing such sights as the pink wind that accompanies a monsoon, or horizontal lightning. “It’s dangerous but you can’t resist it; it’s like a Jackson Pollack painting.”

Laurie Stone is the author of “My Life As an Animal: Stories.” And she once ate a meal with Anthony Bourdain…before he became famous.