In 2017, working closely with librarian Karen Hudson, I coordinated a project that produced a chapbook bringing together poetry from featured presenters and open mic poets from the Salt Spring Library Poetry Open Mic.
First timers at the Salt Spring Poetry Open Mic may initially be puzzled: there isn’t actually a microphone. In the welcoming and intimate space of this community event, no mic is needed.
Each month, the event opens with the deep ringing tones of a singing bowl, a type of bell used in Buddhist meditation. The sound of the bell brings folks into the moment, the silence, to invoke the spirit of poetry.
Those who have something to share show up early—there are only so many spaces on the open mic roster. The regulars who don’t miss a month arrive eager to share the latest piece they’ve been working up. And the newcomers, who may be publicly reading a poem for the first time. Nervous. Excited. After the break, the featured poet, who may be from no further than Rainbow Road or as far away as Toronto, reads or performs.
The event was the inspiration of local poet Christine Smart, who remains its guiding force. Soon after Salt Spring’s beautiful new library opened in 2012, Chris approached Chief Librarian Karen Hudson with the idea of an event that would give local poets a chance to read and/or perform their poetry, providing a “voice” for poets. Together Chris and Karen planned what didn’t take long to become a regular feature of the Island’s artistic scene, starting in 2014.
This chapbook celebrates the diverse voices that come together to share poetry at the Salt Spring Island Public Library. There was only one qualification for submitting: you had to have read, either at the open mic or as featured poet.
The Salt Spring Arts Council offers twice yearly small grants to support arts projects on island. One of these grants provided the seed funds for the chapbook. Later, the Library and other local supporters of the arts pitched in, while several community members offered in kind contributions. See acknowledgements at the end of the book.
The open mic inspires and encourages local poets to write poetry and then read it in front of a live audience. It invites closet poets to come out and share their work in a safe and supportive community. In the same spirit, while some of the poets published here are nationally recognized and cherished artists, for others this is their first literary publication.
Togetherness. The informal mentorship that comes from a circle of peers.
The bowl is singing. Welcome to the verse.