Miami Marketta is inked across the night in red neon. It sits above a glowing warehouse humming with the noise of chatter and mouths munching on food stall goodness. You walk into this trendy plaza past the DJ bringing the background funk and the atmosphere is already quite buzzy and high before you turn into the dimly lit performance space. Drop some dosh into the jar as you pass the door if you’re keen and want to support poetry, drop your name on the list if you’re even keener and want to speak poetry.
The room is spacious, its walls are made out of wooden panel crates and a hundred or so fold out wooden chairs lead in rows to the front where a single microphone stands on a red and patterned rug beneath the mood setting jazzy light, with bit of flora to the left and right for ambiance of course. Interesting characters and personalities fill the air like liquor. All of those intriguing individuals you want to spark up a conversation with. But they’re just as likely to spark up conversations with you. It’s a little brain and everyone is firing around like neurons enlivening the place with the electricity of creativity, collaboration and culture in the making.
You turn your head because the lovely Jade Peterson is at the mic now in her flowing attire, strumming melodically at her guitar and singing sweetly from the soul. It sounds like she is singing “let yourself feeeeeeeeeeeeeeel”. Her music soothes the noise and calms the chatter, pulling the scattered bodies into their seats, to take on audience form. By the time Josh Holms comes to the mic to officially open the evening the crowds attention is present and full.
“Welcome to the psychological anomaly that is Bigger Than Poetry” he says with a grin. Josh is the poet, organiser and push behind the event but he openly thanks all of the people who get up and share their minds and hearts. He thanks and treats those who have just come to watch with equal importance.
“Poets need an audience, there’s only so much you can read to a blank wall.”
It is these people who come to speak and observe who make this thing a thing. Who make this non-judgemental space to come together and freely express possible. And this is what it’s all about. What Josh has facilitated is a vehicle where anyone can come and speak their truth. Whether it’s the tragic trauma you experienced as a kid, your reflections on the mad state of the world, your understanding of the universe, your passion, your life story, your romance, your dreams, your fear, your love, your faith, your nihilism, your big idea, whatever it is, here is a place where you can openly vent, heal or reveal your Self. And you will not be ridiculed or mocked but welcomed and congratulated.
Yet this is still just the tip of the iceberg. One person speaking their truth is beautiful and incredible as it is. But this many people coming together to do it generates something much more powerful. It creates a thriving jungle of feelings and ideas that grow out into the open air and drop the fruits from which the very culture we live in is formed. It inspires us as a collective. Turns one volt into a strong current of voltage that provides us the shiny pen of people power with which change can actually be written. Hence one would not be too immodest to say that the event is ‘Bigger Than Poetry’ for the feeling that there is a movement stirring underneath the surface of it is tangible.
Josh dipped into the hat and pulled out the first Self to be revealed. It was good old Bob. White hair, big belly, probably 70+, a delightful romantic who told us lovingly of how he’d turned his house into an art temple. Following this was a colourful river of poets whose words came flowing out in trickling side streams. Sean a young man from the beautiful land of India let out a powerful and confronting poem called U + I on the insecurity imposed on women by our strange time. Carlos took us on a dream wave through his eyes with Surfing in Colour. The unique and quirky Caresse spoke on the neurobiology of terror from behind her vest, bringing us into her universe and enlightening us with parallels between the fear propaganda of ‘ISIS’ and the Egyptian Goddess ‘Isis’. The elderly Sue shared her life story of escaping Nazi Germany on a train at age 9 and her passage through a Quaker community and then through living in a manor and being raised as a lady. There was the incredible 15 year old Lucy who blew everyone’s mind with her confidence and dream power, kudos sister. The snazzy Sam got up and laid down some smooth jazzy beatboxing, toying with rhythm and swing at once until Josh himself got up with bones burning and let loose a rap of his own and let it be known that the resident host nailed it. There was even a surprise performance by the impressive Dream Team dance squad who said their poetry was written with their bodies and promptly continued to bust a move.
There was much more than this and if I had a whole magazine to myself I would paint you a vivid picture of everything that went down and everything that came flying out of that swarm of creative mouths and do proper justice to everyone who got up. But unfortunately I don’t and who can rely on a young man’s memory anyway? You’d be far better off bringing your eyes and ears down to the next session and checking it out for yourself. I will, however, leave you with one more thing before we part ways. I am happy to report that the sensation of getting up and reading for yourself is f**king awesome.
You stand up there behind the mic under the calm light and look out at the manifold smiling eyes and supporting faces with your heart doing a drum solo and the strange vibration of nerves swimming through your body but not the kind that make you afraid the kind that make you thrilled. You feel electric, you feel alive and out of that energy comes your little poem and it feels good, the crowd hears and embraces you and your words, they’re on your side and you feel happy and at home in yourself as you return to your seat to the warmth of applause and resume your humble place in the audience. And that my friend is exactly where I shall be planted for the next Bigger Than Poetry’s to come, ready to clap for you should I be so lucky as to see your face up there behind the mic some time.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Panton and Saul Cross