Mars Life


The Yammer vortex

As you may or may not know, when I first moved to Chicago, I was dying for a creative outlet. Enter spoken word performance poetry. I went out by myself, saw my first feature (by Jason Pettus, actually, read his journal here), saw a couple open mics, then saw a slam. I loved it! Everyone seemed like such a tight-knit commnity, all speaking their minds, all performing to entertain an audience.

"Shit! I could do this," I thought. "Shit! I've done this," I then thought. I used to write poetry very similar to what I was hearing back when I was in high school. I even performed at a couple coffee houses in college. Also, I'd been the frontman/rapper in two different roots-like bands before moving to Chicago (check out the most recent of the two at, so I really felt at home at these kinds of events. Aaah, the comfortable feeling of familiarity.

So I started to frequent some open mics in town, most regularly, the Mental Graffiti open mic which was at The Note at the time (since then it's moved to the Funky Buddha Lounge. If you need something fun to do on a monday night in Chicago, I highly recommend it.) I wrote what I like to think were some nice pieces, and they were fairly well received.

It's an easy transition going from being a rapper with absolutely no street cred to being a spoken word poet. You've got the notion of rhythm and inflection already (if you didn't I hate to tell ya, you weren't a good rapper), the biggest adjustment I felt was freeing myself up to write about anything and everything I was feeling. Of course, in that sense, that’s where the no street cred came in handy. I didn’t really have anything in my life that the usual rapper would write about, like spending time with other fans of hip-hop, the run-around life of a hustler, promiscuous sex, but I had the skills. Spoken word poetry was perfect.

So flash-forward to now, where I’ve already written some poetry, performed it for several months at the open mics in town, and stopped going because I wasn’t really finding a place in the community. I haven’t really lost any interest in the art, I just haven’t made many friends in the scene, really. So when Jason and Kate (another poet who frequented the Mental Graffiti event) asked if I wanted to go see some open-mic poetry on Wednesday night, it didn’t take long for me to get sucked into the energy of the Yammer open mic at Carol’s Pub.

What a fun time. I got to pick both Kate and Jason’s poems, they both sounded wonderful, I got to meet Lisa Hemminger, who runs the open mic, and we all had tequila shots! What could be better! I even got up and did one of my old poems, yes, I was fully pulled into the Yammer vortex. It did end up in me finally recording one of my poems on my handheld, something I’ve always been meaning to do. I took a cue from Jason, and influenced by the creativity that was flowing in the room despite the low turnout, I frantically transcribed my poem “Squeak, Rattle, and Pose” into my Sony Clie.

God, stepping back up there really affected me. It always does. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that it’s less than five minutes in front an audience of ten, and won’t really result in me jumping headfirst back into spoken word. Nevertheless, it did affect me. Next time I’m free on an evening, maybe I’ll actually consider going to one of the open mics in this city that likes to pride itself as the birthplace of spoken word. Stranger things have happened!

So for now, I wish you all a safe weekend. Next week there’ll be more to come!


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