Forum for the word: Poet’s Open Mic gives an opportunity for prose at Sweet Reads

Published 7:41 am Sunday, December 17, 2017

A plate of Ritz crackers, spread with honey and arranged on a gold plate, is passed around the circle.

“Communion anyone?” Lisa Deyo jokes as the plate is handed off. Coffee is poured; people settle around the Sweet Reads Bookstore’s fireplace.

In a way, this night is a kind of communion, a sharing of a common love. In this case, that’s poetry.

Email newsletter signup

Poet’s Open Mic at Sweet Reads Bookstore is a recent venue for local poets and the lovers thereof. On one night in each of the last four months, poetry enthusiasts have gathered to read their own creations, share those of others, or to just listen.

On this night, there are 10 in attendance; there have been as many as 22, said Deyo, who owns the bookstore. Some are students at Riverland; some are more seasoned. Some are there for the first time.

Deyo holds onto a volume of Billy Collins’ poetry, ready to jump in and recite if there is a lull during the upcoming hour and a half.

But she needn’t have worried.

Anthony Donaghue starts right in. He loves poetry, he says — and finding ways to rhyme while he writes is “one of my favorite parts,” he says.

“As I reflect

memories I collect

I see that time is never wasted

for every experience was tasted”

He raises hackles, though, when he reads another of his poems that begins, “I love the world, the world loves I.”

Virginia Larsen, a local author and retired language instructor, gives Donaghue the teacher’s “look,” suspecting that he used “I” instead of “me” “for the sake of the rhyme,” she says.

He disagrees.

“I did it for the polarity,” or the reversal of the phrasing, Donaghue explains.

She looks at him.

‘You just drive me crazy,” said Larsen, with a grin. “Or, you drive I crazy.”


Tim Lindberg is one of those that routinely meets with the Poet’s Open Mic at Sweet Reads. Eric Johnson/

Tim Brennan, whose work as been published in the “The Walking Stick,” a Minnesota anthology of poetry — and who has won placings in its contests — says he enjoys writing free verse.

“I enjoy creating the rhythm,” he says.

Brennan shares a few of his works, whose titles all begin with “Fragments of …” In the end, all poetry are pieces, or fragments, of our worlds, he says.

This type of gathering allows him to refocus on his writings when people question a phrase, he adds.

“It’s important for me to hear what other people think,” he says, nodding at Deyo, who questioned one of his lines. “It makes me want to go back and take a look at that again.”

Vicky King of Austin is a poet, too, but on this night, brings Ted Kooser’s poems to the circle.

She reads “Abandoned Farmhouse” that sparks admiration; Larsen does the same with “Prayers from the Ark,” by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold. Those outside the circle, so to speak, are as appreciated as its members.

Riverland student Nick Lindberg hunches over a notebook cradled on his knees, looking up to think, and looking down, jotting and rewriting.

A portion of a poem he entitled “The Hero” —  inspired by literature’s archetypal hero — is read, although he apologizes for its first-draft rawness. His dense images draw praise.

“It is about a person who fights for their ideals,” he says.

Deyo closes the session, still clutching Collins’ book of poems, still unopened. The night has been full enough.

A notebook of Anthony Donaghue’s poetry lies open during his reading Tuesday night at Sweet Reads. Eric Johnson/

Admiration for the stylized form of expression “like with any art form, comes and goes,” Brennan says. This circle is a testament to its popularity here. The energy generated by the night remains high, as conversation continues during the repacking of notebooks and poems to come.

“It’s always good to be in the presence of good writing,” Deyo says, taking back an empty, gold plate.

Poet’s Open Mic is held on one Tuesday a month at Sweet Reads Bookstore. Check the Herald’s community calendar for dates.

Fragments of the Third Floor – St. Joseph’s Hospital

A far door swings open and a doctor

and a nurse waltz in like synced-dancers.

No words, one in a white coat, the other

in a V-neck solid blue top.

Adorned with silver watches, matching

stethoscopes, each carries a platinum chart.

In Room 627, all but one line has been taken

out, bluish-morphine is every hour

on the hour. Plastic pens click, a head sinks

into a white pillow

like a fallen snow angel; the two of them

two-step quickly down
the polished linoleum floor, past all

closed doors—

proud and confident, young and living

among a floor of upcoming dead.

— Tim J. Brennan