By Grace Brown, Columnist
This most recent Tuesday, March 15, the Canisius Writing Center held its first annual Ides of March Open Mic Night. This event encouraged literature enthusiasts of all academic backgrounds to congregate in order to share original compositions, as well as excerpts from favorite authors’ works, with one another. Musical performances were likewise welcomed, and thoroughly enjoyed, by all.
Given its unprecedented occurrence, this preliminary event was remarkably successful and widely attended. Students and professors alike, from majors other than merely English and creative writing, gathered to savor hot beverages and Tim Hortons donuts along with delicious literature.
Like most events held within the English department, the atmosphere was generally relaxed. Participants were encouraged to share pieces of any style or topic without restraint, intentionally encouraging the communication of diverse ideas.
The pieces ranged from silly songs about middle school love at the roller rink — expertly accompanied by guitar — to more serious poems about abortion and political prejudice. Regardless of tone or topic, those in attendance cheered each other on with full-fledged clapping, rather than underwhelming finger snapping.
The success of the evening was due largely to the established openness to any kind of art, — musical, literary or otherwise — and the accepting attitude of all listeners. Some provided stories as background for their pieces, while others did not. Some artists shared twice or even three times, and the audience remained unwavering in their enthusiasm.
Likewise, the pronounced preference for versatility in subject matter contributed to a safe environment in which students and faculty could share free from judgment. Nothing was off limits, and experimenting was encouraged.
On a personal note, I shared a recently composed piece about an individual challenge I have struggled with for a long time. Despite the inevitable vulnerability of reading a piece like this aloud in front of others, I felt confident and proud as a result of the compassionate and sensitive attitude of those listening.
I would absolutely recommend the experience of sharing vulnerable material with others if given the opportunity in a safe and welcoming environment. I think reading work close to your heart (self-composed or not) aloud is empowering and liberating, because it demonstrates your dominance over the subject matter, as an author; it feels kind of like a free therapy session. Besides, it serves as a wonderful bonding experience between yourself and your audience.
The purpose of hosting this wonderful event was not only to facilitate literary exuberance across academic departments, but also to raise awareness for the awesome atmosphere of the Writing Center and hard work of the tutors who work within it. Aside from the location being primarily unknown, the mission of the Writing Center is widely misunderstood across campus.
The Writing Center exists to help all writers improve, regardless of academic background. From academic essays to creative short stories, tutors are trained and excited to help students become better authors.
Events such as Tuesday’s open mic may serve to boost recognition for the Writing Center, as well as create more connections between the English department students and staff and other fields of study. Hopefully, seeing and listening to others share their creative writing in similar events may facilitate creative writing campuswide, leading to increased original compositions.
Consequently, events of this kind may increase recognition and representation of the creative writing opportunities on campus, such as the Quadrangle literary magazine. Authors could use these opportunities to “test out” original compositions before submitting to Quadrangle or perhaps just take the chance to read works they felt uncomfortable submitting to be published.
By hosting events such as open mic nights, Canisius encourages students to experience sharing their work with an albeit small, but attentive, part of the world. For there are few things more enjoyable than expressing your own truth through your own words (or songs).