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.
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.