“Words at WAM” open mic to showcase student literary talent

Free and open to the public, “Words” is a novel event at the Weisman.

by Dylan Hester

Standing in front of a crowd to read a composition can be an equally daunting and rewarding experience. But to do so alongside fellow students and literary-minded individuals inside the Weisman Art Museum is a rare opportunity that many will take advantage of later this week.

Wednesday night, the Weisman Art Museum will house what is sure to be a spontaneous and potent group of literary artists — a group whose ranks are open to anyone in the public.

“Words at WAM: An Open Mic” is a celebration of literary talent. Not only spoken word, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, but any and all “literary mischief” is encouraged. The central idea behind the event is to encourage new writers to present their material, get feedback and exchange ideas.

“ ‘Words at WAM’ is unique in that we’re trying to bridge the gap between college student writers and the larger Twin Cities literary community,” says Melissa Wray, co-founder of the local literary group Hazel & Wren. Wray is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and former editor-in-chief of the student literary journal the Ivory Tower. “As a student poet, I had no idea where to turn to in order to participate in readings since I was not published.”

The Hazel & Wren project is based on the web, but they have always wanted to host an in-person event.

“There is a really strong spoken-word open mic scene here in the Twin Cities,” Wray said. “But there aren’t as many open mics locally that encourage writers of any genre to come forth and read.”

Last fall, the students of the WAM Collective, who represent student voice and participation at the Weisman, approached Hazel & Wren. Brainstorming together, they made the event a reality.

The new expansion of the Weisman will provide a unique atmosphere for “Words at WAM.”

“It’s such a beautiful, dynamic space,” Wray says, “and it’s a perfect fit.”

A packed, dingy coffee shop may have the traditionally romantic qualities of an open-mic session. But the open interior of the Weisman has the power to truly let the readers’ words shine.

The night begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour and sign-up period (first come, first serve). The open mic will begin at 7 p.m. and last for an hour. Readers will then have four minutes to present their work for the audience. Following the open mic, local poets Lightsey Darst and Miles Walser will present material to cap off the night.

For those who take advantage of the opportunity and seek to grow as writers and wordsmiths, “Words at WAM” will certainly be a fruitful experience. It will “bring the local literary community to campus,” Wray said.

Students and nonstudents alike are encouraged to bring their ideas, their minds, their hearts and those carefully chosen words to present.