On Monday, an open mic stood in Pollak Library, available for Cal State Fullerton poets, guests and the community to step up and share words that transcended paper and fear.
“As someone who comes from a different culture and as an immigrant, I feel that poetry carries our cultural memories and personal stories,” said Jie Tian, event organizer and research librarian at the Pollak Library.
Tian said she grew up in China and learned to read and write through poetry, which was embedded within her culture.
Natalie Graham, featured poet and African-American studies associate professor, began the open mic with a reading from another poet’s work and finished the segment with her own.
“Usually, it’s a female poet. It’s always important for me to bring another woman into the room with me when I’m reading,” Graham said.
Featured poet and Cal State Fullerton Professor Natalie Graham shares her poetry at the Community Open Mic in the Pollak Library. pic.twitter.com/Q8Xq93yMCW
— Diane Ortiz (@diane_ortiz_) April 24, 2018
The event is a part of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.
Tian said she has been a part of organizing the campus’ own poetry month since its inception over a decade ago.
She said she began at CSUF as the library’s reference and research coordinator for book displays, which were routinely outfitted for honorary months like Women’s and African-American History Month.
During her time as coordinator, Tian said she wanted to see the campus honor National Poetry Month as well.
Tian said she has collaborated for 14 years with Irena Pratis, literature of the Americas professor, for 14 years, organizing events and inviting published poets to read on campus.
On Monday and Tuesday, “Lifting Together: Poetry and the Rising Imagination,” was a series of poetry events in the library, and included readings by poets Victoria Chang and April Ossmann.
It concluded with the community open mic where guests were able to walk up to the mic and read their own work or the work of other poets.
Graham said she began helping Tian and Praitis with their events when she came to CSUF five years ago. She said every April, the trio aims to have nationally-renowned poets come to campus and share their work with students.
She said the event is important to them because of the many voices from the community that are allowed to be expressed.
“I think that poetry is vital. It’s important for us to do things that bring us together in different spaces that are more organic and allow us to ask questions of ourselves and of each other that maybe other types of medium or art hasn’t allowed us to do,” Graham said.
Tian said she encourages poets that are nervous about open mics to fight their fears by facing them and walking up to the mic.
“In order to break that fear, step up to the mic. Even when you hear your voice tremble, it’s not that bad,” she said. “There are so many voices. Every voice is beautiful. One doesn’t have to be perfect to go up.”