8 years ago, Bo James and I were sitting in the studio at his then east side home brainstorming our next venture. 8 years ago, we wanted to create an environment where all walks of life can come and express themselves without being judged. 8 years ago, we wanted to create an experience where the community is the star. We figured what better way to do this than with poetic expression. We wanted to host an open-mic experience that would take what usually happens at such events and turn it on its ear. We thought that people would love to be in a place where they could not only have fun, but also be inspired.
Interestingly enough, no one in town thought this was a good idea. We were turned down by every venue we approached across the metro. They all said this poetry thing will never work in the long run. The only place that showed any true interest that would give us the opportunity was an establishment known more for its punk, hard rock, and heavy metal music than anything else. Although poetry was not their thing, the House of Bricks (525 East Grand) gave us the chance to plant the seed we named Say What Poetry.
It’s been eight years now and we are still here. We’re still a great atmosphere full of energy where people come to fill free if only for the evening. When you enter this space all the stress seems to roll off and the judgments are left at the door. The month of March marks Say What Poetry’s month long celebration of poetic expression in Des Moines. Known for our late night shows on the first Thursday of each month, we have also added an early show during the third Thursday of each month. Our goal is to make Say What Poetry assessable to the under-aged and those who cannot hang with the late nights.
The show on March 1st was electric. I was extra nervous [I am always a little nervous before a show] this night due to it being our anniversary. When the doors opened there were quite a few people waiting to get in. Usually our audience isn’t there until 10 or so. By ten we were out of seats and had people standing. I began the show as I always do, and we were off to what was a great start. The poets were amazing. They were all over the place that night covering an array of topics as we celebrated. While there were poets who drove from around the state, one poet who was once a regular came from as far as the east coast just to be a part of the celebration. We were also graced with some hip hop, jazz, and a song. You never know what to expect with Say What poetry, and most nights exceed audience’s expectations. This night was no exception.
After the show, there are always people that approach me expressing their regrets for either not coming or not coming sooner. As with any experience, I always say it is what you make it. I am grateful to all that have supported Say What Poetry over the years. I’ve seen courthouse judges in suits sitting beside homeless people sitting beside a police officer sitting beside folks that probably have a warrant. I love that when people come together here, the judgment is left at the door and people can just be themselves. There is a freedom in that. This has been an awesome ride. At 6:30PM on Thursday March 15th we will continue our celebration of 8 years of poetry in Des Moines at the House of Bricks. I hope to see you there.
And the next Poet!!!!