A Designated Space for Exploration

The cozy, windowless back room of Donkey Coffee and Espresso is warmly lit. The current decor of paintings of birds accents the eggshell walls and dark wood paneling. On most evenings, you’ll find this section filled with friends snuggling on couches, people buried in computer assignments, people on first dates and folks curled up on cozy chairs reading and writing for pleasure.

This warm, inviting haven is a fitting location for creative expression, and every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. it transforms into an open mic for reading poetry, essays, and narratives. Sometimes people even showcase performance art. This weekly session holds the fitting title of Designated Space, a home for poets new and old to gather and share their art.

I would be lying if I said that every poet who climbs onto that stage and takes the mic on a Tuesday night is good. Not everyone can be Maya Angelou, after all. On the other hand, it takes real bravery to share such personal art, and seeing people share, regardless of the topic or quality of content, is inspiring.

Regulars present new work like they would present their prized possession or a younger sibling. Olivia Cobb, an English major, began her set with a new poem. “I just wrote this one a few days ago,” she said. “I can’t wait to share my baby with you.”

The beauty of Designated Space is that it showcases a mix of regulars and pop-in poets, people who have been religiously pouring their work out every week since they discovered the weekly event juxtaposed with people who had no idea that Designated Space was even a thing—they just happened to be in the room when it started.

Allman performs an original piece at Designated Space.
Allman performs an original piece at Designated Space.

One such performer was Bobby Walker, a junior studying women, gender and sexuality studies. “I didn’t even know this was a thing until it started happening two hours ago,” they chuckled. Walker treated the audience to a piece read in their Guyanese accent, an accent they often choose to Americanize because they feel self-conscious. It was a special window into their personal world and upbringing, insight not provided but the casual passing conversations we have with strangers and acquaintances.

While some simply read at the microphone, others choose a more complex performance. Griffin Allman is a freshman studying integrated media. His readings were performed with intense energy, and at points he grabbed his hair, threw his arms out and nearly broke into a shout. Allman is a prize-winning member of OHIO’s Forensics Team.

Kara Guyton, the usual host of Designated Space and a senior studying commercial photography was unable to host the whole event, but she popped in at the end of the night to read some of her favorite poems about animals. Guyton was charming and funny, interspersing her humor between serious poems. Her voice was soothing and inviting, and her readings of two Charles Wright pieces entranced the audience wholly.

Over the course of the two hours, 16 people read poetry. Some chose to read original pieces, others read from poets past, while others chose to talk about everything from depression to self-exploration to vaginas to missing old lovers.

When I returned home to pick out my favorite bits of tape and outline this article, I couldn’t help but feel the pull to come back next week and explore the spoken word that fills the cozy back room with life every Tuesday.

Review: Bobcats’ favorite holiday movies

While some of us may have begun celebrating Christmas a month ago, for those of you who are adamant about not listening to a single verse of “Jingle Bells” until Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday season is now officially upon us. And what would the Christmas season be like without all those classic holiday movies, both new and old? I asked a couple Bobcats to name their favorite seasonal flicks, so if you choose to celebrate Christmas, make sure to schedule time in your winter break to watch these films – odds are they’ll all be on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas at some point!

1) Elf (2003) 
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Elf is my favorite Christmas movie because there is so much physical comedy and every time I watch it, I notice something new.” – Lucas Hackenburg, Senior

It’s hard to believe this instant classic is twelve years old this year. Will Ferrell stars as the lovable Buddy the Elf who, after being raised by elves in the North Pole, makes the trek to New York City to find his real dad, whom he is shocked to find on Santa’s Naughty List. With such iconic scenes as Buddy pressing all the elevator buttons because it “looks like a Christmas tree” and classic lines such as “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and shoved eleven cookies into the VCR,” this movie is just as endearing and funny with every viewing as it was the first time you saw it.

2) The Polar Express (2004)

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The Polar Express is my favorite movie because it’s a fun and heartfelt Christmas movie. When I watch it I feel like a little kid again, with the anticipation building up for Christmas Day. The idea of the bell and how only those who believe in Santa can hear it is an idea that really warms my heart. And on that topic, when my oldest nephew was about two or so he went on a Polar Express train ride. At the end, he got a bell from Santa just like the ones in the movie and for Christmas that year he gave to me as a gift. It was probably the most heartfelt gift I’ve ever received. The bell and the overall movie is just a really good reminder to myself about what Christmas is all about. It’s not about the presents or the cookies – it’s about believing in something bigger than oneself. It’s about the magic of the season bringing people together and it’s about being happy. The Polar Express reminds me of this magic every time I watch it. Also, I just really love the “Hot Chocolate” song on the train ride in the movie.” – Maureen Mierke, Junior

Maureen basically said it all. Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg and starring Tom Hanks in various roles, this movie stunned audiences with its beautiful and realistic animation and the childlike wonder it inspires. If you don’t tear up when “Hero Girl” and “Lonely Boy” (they’re never given actual names) sing “When Christmas Comes to Town,” your heart just may be two sizes too small. And yes, I know that’s not from The Polar Express. You get my point.

3) A Christmas Story (1983)

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“It’s my favorite because every single year my family and I watch the 24-hour showing of it on TBS.” – Cheyenne Buckingham, Junior

As Cheyenne said, this movie is so dearly loved by audiences old and young that it has its own 24-hour marathon every year. Nearly everyone is familiar with the leg lamp and the image of Ralphie’s poor little brother Randy lying in the snow, unable to get up due to the numerous layers of winter clothing forced onto him by his mother. The movie was largely filmed in Cleveland and the Christmas Story house is now open to visitors as a museum.

4) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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Now for a couple of my personal favorite Christmas movies. Before you groan and dismiss this choice because it features the Muppets, I’m going to need you to stop and give this film a chance. This adaptation of Dickens’s famous tale is so popular that Buzzfeed proclaimed it “the best Carol of them all,” and for good reason. Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog are a perfect Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, respectively. You will laugh out loud at the narration provided by Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, and you will be appropriately scared out of your wits by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (it looks very much like a Dementor from the Harry Potter universe). Your heart is guaranteed to grow three sizes – again, I’m aware that that’s a reference to a different story – and you will be humming all the catchy tunes for days afterward.

5) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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No holiday movie list would be complete without this timeless tale from director Frank Capra. The style of this movie has been copied time and time again by numerous television shows and other films, but nothing compares to the original. Although the greater part of the film doesn’t actually take place at Christmastime, the holiday season seems to be the perfect time for viewing this flick with your loved ones and a cup of hot chocolate. You’ll empathize with poor George Bailey (portrayed excellently by the inimitable Jimmy Stewart) as he grows from an ambitious child with big dreams to an adult exhausted by the reality of life who can never seem to catch a break. You will shed a happy tear when George sees how many lives he’s touched and how different the world would have been without him, and you will smile when you hear Zuzu’s oft-repeated line, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings!” This story will continue to resonate for generations to come because so many people can relate to George’s plight and because it ends on a joyful note. As Clarence Odbody says, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”