Experiencing the ASU poetry scene

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After 4 semesters at ASU, it's easy to assume that I have it all figured out. I can amble my way to the Memorial Union on Tempe Campus. I've perfectly calculated the time it takes to drive from Tempe to Downtown Phoenix in rush hour traffic. The image of late-night campus cockroaches has been permanently etched in my mind.

But for a pretty artsy and lit-obsessed individual, I know almost nothing about that ASU scene. Aside from being a full-time student, I also work an evening shift for a business. I never have the time to participate in the events that ASU offers. So when I heard that West campus was hosting an open mic night, with Neil Hilborn as their special guest, I snatched up the opportunity.

Arriving at West campus, the sun was just starting to set, and members of the activities board were bustling around trying to set up tables and chairs, urging everyone to sign in.


I chose to sit at a table close to the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Delph Courtyard is a hidden oasis at the West Campus, where students are normally found studying or meeting with friends. It features a grand staircase and is surrounded by blossoming bougainvillea plants. As the sun set, it became that perfect cove for poetry and song.

When I sat down, I was asked if I wanted to perform. I replied with a definite no. I had nothing prepared, and I realized later on that I lacked the courage of the other performers. The poets and singers, mostly ASU students but also some high schoolers, had verve and the strength to share their stories. There were recited poems, slam poems, and songs. I went through bouts of laughter, tears, and pure joy.

Then, Neil Hilborn took the stage. I had featured Hilborn in one of the very first "Literally Speaking" posts, and praised him for his ability to connect people through emotion and feeling. When he opened with "OCD", my favorite poem of his, it was an exciting experience. I fangirled, I'll admit. More laughter and crying ensued with his later poems about hipsters and lost love.

His poetry re-energized me. So often, work and school bog me down. Words, written and spoken, always find a way to pick me up again after I've fallen.

To say the least, my first ASU open mic experience was a success. If there was an ultimate moral to the story, it would be to take chances and to do the things you never thought were possible.

How was your first open mic experience? Were you at the West campus open mic too? Let me know at arabusa@asu.edu or on Twitter @marie_eo.

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