At the back of a café, on a small stage with a microphone, poets, one by one stepped up in front of a small crowd Wednesday evening.
The event, an open mic, was organized by the staff of Fathom, an annual student-run creative writing journal. It was held at the Smiling Goat café on Spring Garden Road. The organizers hoped it would help students network with members of the literary circles in Halifax.
Fathom only accepts submissions from Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College undergraduate students, but shared this evening with the public. Creating connections was the primary goal of the night, which was also a fundraiser for the poetry journal.
“The open mic is more centered around community outreach rather than fundraising,” said Trynne Delaney, a Dal student and co-editor in chief at Fathom. “We’re mostly interested in holding space for people to explore their creativity in public.”
Sue Goyette, a professor in Dalhousie’s English department, attended the poetry night as a special guest. She performed an excerpt from Penelope, her new book-length poem published by Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press.
“I think this (event) is really important for a couple of reasons,” she said. “To get students out into the community reading their work I think really has great impact for both the students and the community.”
Despite being an author of several poetry books, Goyette said she drew inspiration from poets newer to the stage.
“I’m happy to be in this company; I always leave inspired from these types of readings,” she said. “I’m always impressed by people who are emerging and are writing with courage and open hearts.”
The event drew an attentive, female-only crowd. Carmel Mikol, an English honours student at Dal, said this wasn’t intentional, but perhaps a good snapshot of what her classes are like.
“I think it’s representative of the kind of gender representation in English classes, the English department in general,” she said. “And I don’t exactly know exactly why that is … there’s no rules about it, obviously.”
Mikol, who is also an editor at Fathom, acted as both a performer and host of the night.
“Obviously we’re all kind of like terrified writers here, so it’s a good space to try out something new,” she said.
Many of the performers seemed nervous. Pages quivered in their hands, but their voices were confident and expressive. They captured the attention of the room with poems that were both thoughtful and personal.
Gracey Patterson, a student of international development and creative writing at Dal, was one of the first to read. She said this was her first time performing her poetry in public.
Patterson said she had a good experience, which is exactly what the open mic’s organizers hoped to achieve.
“We’re just trying to get the word out about (Fathom) and give people an opportunity to kind of come and read. And sometimes it’s scary,” said Mikol.
Delaney said Fathom and the Dal English Society have discussed a lack of opportunities for creative writing students to perform their work in an on-campus setting.
The staff at Fathom hope to change this by organizing more events on and off-campus in the future.
Sue Goyette was also seen interacting with guests and students during a break.
“That’s one of the nice things about open mics, when you have those little breaks different writers connect with each other. And sometimes they make connections that last a super long time or that are super influential,” said Delaney.
Mikol said that she hopes events like the open mic will also encourage students in all departments at Dal and King’s to write for Fathom.
“We have a real focus this year on like letting people know that you don’t have to be just a creative writing major to submit. That it’s for anyone who’s an undergrad at King’s or Dal,” she said.
The organizers of Fathom are planning to host another open mic next semester. Submissions for Fathom, due to be released next April, will be accepted from Dal and King’s students until Dec. 22.