Voices came alive at Jeanne Mance Park on Sept. 30 with Mcsway Poetry Collective’s first open-mic night of the semester, “Poetry in the Park.” Gathered around a tree strung with lights that acted as a stage, the audience sat on blankets, listening to poets valiantly share their words and their hearts.
“This is our first time [hosting an open-mic] in the park, but it is an effort to create the spaces we were creating before the pandemic, [spaces] where people can gather and feel comfortable to share,” said Mcsway vice-president Amanda Ventrudo, U3 Arts. “A lot of people will share […] spontaneously at the end, or it will be their first time reading, so it’s just nice to have a space to do that.”
Though it was the group’s first time holding a poetry night in the park, Mcsway created a welcoming, non-judgemental space where people felt safe to express themselves in an intimate and emotional way.
“I think it’s just different to share physically what you’ve written and have people [react]. You can see and feel people respond to it in real-time,” Ventrudo said. “A lot of the time [it] is cathartic to read something that you wrote out loud, instead of just leaving it in its written form.”
A nervous excitement swept the atmosphere as each performer stood up and made their way to the stage. Some were more nervous than others, but as the excited and welcoming audience clapped and whistled in their honour, they visibly relaxed.
Although there were technical issues with the microphone that made it difficult to hear the performers, many used their physicality to convey the spirit of the poems. Some were more faint, while others worked with the audience to improve their projection.
It was moving to see initially nervous performers open up and embrace being vulnerable in sharing parts of their world with the audience. Some performers showcased poetry they had written before the pandemic—a striking reminder of how distant and detached the last year and a half of quarantine felt—while others shared poems about personal and intimate struggles. Writers also discussed the meaning and circumstances behind their poems, giving the audience further insight into their words.
This event allowed all who attended to sit, share, and connect in a profound way that only sharing poetry can produce.
“For me, [poetry] is one of the most effective ways to express yourself because anybody can do it and there are not really any tricks or skills that you need,” Ventrudo said. “I think making it accessible and normal to share those kinds of things is really [important.]”