Maybe you're a prolific writer who's been composing rhythmic verse since you can first remember. Or maybe you're a wallflower with the secret desire to get out there and express yourself.
Whatever the case, Geo Kiesow, who's been running the Poetry Slam at Milwaukee's Y-Not II since 1987, says open mic nights are a great way to hone your craft. He took over the role of manager after consistently earning the title as Slam Champion while a participant in the program.
"You gotta start somewhere," says Kiesow. "Poetry on the page is nice and all, but only poets are going to read it. If you really want people to hear your stuff, you got to get out and read it yourself."
And not only will performing on stage get the message to the people, Kiesow says it'll help improve your writing, too. Case in point, Kiesow mentions Poetry Slam veteran Jeanne Spicuzza. A former Milwaukeean, Spicuzza is now working in L.A. as a professional artist and writer.
"I remember when she first started reading ... and I watched her get better and better," says Kiesow. "That's one of the things I enjoy the most, is watching some of these people start out and get better and better."
There's no need for experience, and Kiesow says Milwaukee is actually a "kinder, gentler" place to participate in open mic nights. Cities like Chicago employ audience heckling, actually, snapping and grunting, when they don't like something they see. But that kind of behavior's not kosher in Milwaukee, says Kiesow.
"You just gotta get up and do it," Kiesow advises. "People should get out there and give it a shot."
So who knows? You might be a poet and not even know it! If you'd like to give it a try, here's a list of some open mic nights in Milwaukee for both the poetry and music lover in you.
For the Poet:
The Coffee House, 631 N. 19th St. (414) 299-9598. Look on Web site for most current listings, the-coffee-house.com for select acoustic and spoken word open stage events. $2 admission. Café is located in the lower level of Redeemer Lutheran Church.
The Eighth Note Coffee House, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., ground floor of UWM Student Union. (414) 229-5961. Scheduled readings upon request by a host or organization. Call for current event.
Woodland Pattern Bookstore, 720 E. Locust St. (414) 263-5001. Red Letter reading series is every third Friday, monthly. Night features local and regional writers and begins at 7 p.m. with an open mic. Hiatus in December, January and July.
Y-Not II, 706 E. Lyon. (414) 347-9972. Poetry Slam, second and fourth Wednesdays, monthly. Open mic and featured performer. Winners participate in Super Slam readings in November. Starts at 8:30 p.m.
For the Musician:
Bremen Café, 901 E. Clark St. (414) 372-5351. Open jams on Monday nights. Begins around 7 p.m. and lasts until everyone has played.
Linneman's Riverwest Inn, 1001 E. Locust St. (414) 263-9844. Acoustic Open Stage on Wednesday nights. Doors open at 5 p.m. Sign up sheet goes out at 9 p.m. Music starts at 10 p.m.
Miramar Theater, 2844 N. Oakland Ave. (414) 967-0302. Open Mike is every Tuesday at 8:00. Get there early because the list of 15 performers fills up quickly. A list for reserve performers is also available for any extra time.
Quarters, 900 East Center St. 263-4140. The Original Sunday Night Stage w/Mariah. Must register on sign-up sheet before performance. Music starts at 9 p.m.
Sande's National Pasttime, 5105 W. National Ave. (414) 385-0896. Sunday Open Blues Jam with Tall Mike.
Six Points Pub, 6200 W. Greenfield Ave. (414) 773-4980. Monday night Blues Jam. Starts around 9:30 p.m.
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